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Didi’s President Liu Relinquishes Title as Firm Rebuilds

In Technology
May 19, 2024

(Bloomberg) — Didi Global Inc. President Jean Liu is relinquishing her roles as president and board director of China’s ride-hailing giant after almost a decade in the positions, as the company tries to revive growth following a regulatory crackdown by the government.

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Liu, a director and president of the company since December 2014, will become a permanent partner and continue to report to Chief Executive Officer Will Cheng as chief people officer, according to an internal letter to employees on Sunday. Didi’s management will no longer have a president and Liu’s responsibilities will not change, it said.

“Through ten years of ups and downs as one of the company’s co-founders, Jean is my closest comrade and partner, and will continue to be in the future,” Cheng said in the letter.

Liu said in the memo that she had initiated the change to better focus on long-term efforts, including working on talent development, organization-building, and social responsibility work.

“Please rest assured I will keep fighting side by side with you all, and be the best version of myself for the next 10 years at Didi,” she wrote.

Liu is one of the few high-profile female leaders in China’s tech industry and is the daughter of Lenovo Group Ltd. founder Liu Chuanzhi. The former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. executive was one of the driving forces behind the success of Didi, including securing the backing of tech giants including Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Uber Technologies Inc., and capital from a host of finance powerhouses from SoftBank Group Corp. to Blackrock Inc.

The latest change comes as Didi, once feted as the national champion that drove Uber out of China, is seeking to make its comeback after being targeted by the government in its campaign to rein in the country’s powerful internet industry. Didi was fined more than 8 billion yuan ($1.1 billion) in 2022, and was found to have violated three laws, with those illegal operations threatening national security, the internet overseer said. Cheng and Liu were fined 1 million yuan apiece following the probe.

The ride-hailing platform looks set to benefit from China’s recent supportive measures for overseas listings. China this month approved a US listing by autonomous driving startup Pony.ai, raising the potential for an increase in Chinese tech initial public offerings in New York after a more than two-year hiatus. The China Securities Regulatory Commission said it would support overseas listings of tech firms.

Didi was planning to list on Hong Kong’s stock exchange this year after it was forced to delist from New York, Bloomberg News reported. Its shares, now traded only over-the-counter in New York, rose 21% this year to $4.78 and its market capitalization recovered to $23 billion, but is still well shy of its IPO price of $14 in 2021.

The firm may also face possible class action suits from IPO investors for concealing compliance issues ahead of the listing, a US judge ruled in March.

Didi’s revenue in the fourth quarter of 2023 rose 55% from a year earlier, suggesting the company is progressing in its endeavor to reclaim market share lost since 2021. Its main apps returned to Chinese app stores early last year, allowing the company to resume growth in the home market it still dominates.

(Updates with CEO’s comment in third paragraph, more details from the company letter from fourth.)

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