While Americans are increasingly learning the names of some Chinese Internet companies — Tencent, Baidu and Alibaba — it’s likely that Cheetah Mobile hasn’t yet made the list.
Nonetheless, the mobile app maker launched a public offering on Thursday.
In an interview, Cheetah CEO Sheng Fu said that the money raised may help with acquisitions, but equally the offering is a chance for the company to get better known.
“We really want to leverage our IPO to enhance our global branding,” Fu said, via a translator.
Several of Cheetah’s products — Battery Doctor, Clean Master and Photo Grid — have topped the Google Play charts in either China or the U.S., but the Cheetah name is relatively unknown. In part, that’s because Cheetah is a spinoff from Kingsoft (which still owns a controlling interest in the company), and the apps were formerly sold under Kingsoft’s brand.
It’s also the kind of market where users search for a highly rated product that solves a problem and may pay less attention to the company behind it. Fu noted that Cheetah already has 16 million monthly active users in the U.S.
“We strategically did this to remain low key,” Fu said. “We didn’t want to attract competitors’ attention. Right now is the time for us to do some of the corporate branding.”
In addition to Kingsoft, Cheetah also has ties to handset maker Xiaomi, with Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun serving as Cheetah’s chairman.
Fu is also the subject of a lawsuit from his former employer, Qihoo, which is one of Cheetah’s main rivals. However, Fu said the suit doesn’t bear directly on Cheetah.
“It’s a long story,” Fu said. “To cut it short, it has not been [about] Cheetah Mobile, the company and the products. It’s personal.”
Cheetah did call out the Qihoo suit in its prospectus as among the company’s risk factors.
Cheetah’s shares enjoyed a relatively modest response Thursday, trading recently at 14.77, up about five percent from the company’s $14-per-share offering price.
Fu said that Cheetah hopes its public offering is a boost not just to his company, but other Chinese software developers.
“We also believe that Chinese companies will become some of the top companies in the mobile Internet age,” Fu said. “What we want to do is really become a bridge and have other Chinese Internet companies to reach a global stage.”