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China's Zhihu raises $523 mln in U.S. IPO despite uneasy ties

HONG KONG, March 26 (Reuters) - Chinese question and answer website Zhihu Inc raised $523 million in its U.S. initial public offering (IPO) after pricing its shares at $9.50 each, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the matter.

Zhihu sold 55 million American Depository Shares (ADS) at the bottom of the $9.50 to $11.50 range the stock was marketed at during the deal.

The sources could not be named as the information was not yet public.

Zhihu did not respond to a request for comment.

The company, which has been described as China’s version of Quora, also raised $250 million in a placement to investors led by Alibaba and JD.Com affiliates.

Zhihu’s decision to list on the New York Stock Exchange comes as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) presses ahead with a plan for foreign companies which do not meet U.S. auditing standards to be delisted.

News the SEC is progressing the plan put in place under former President Donald Trump has prompted a share price slump in Chinese companies listed in on Wall Street over the past two sessions.

The move by SEC adds to the unprecedented regulatory crackdown in China on domestic technology companies which has increased the negative sentiment towards their stock prices.

In Hong Kong, Baidu Inc shares fell 5.4% Friday taking its two day loss to about 15%, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd dropped another 2.35%, and Netease Inc was down 2.2%. JD.Com bucked the trend and was trading 1.82% higher.

Zhihu shares will start trading on the NYSE on Friday. (Reporting by Scott Murdoch in Hong Kong. Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

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