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Gay dating app Grindr to go ahead with IPO plan after U.S. security panel drops opposition

Grindr
U.S. security officials had pressured the Chinese company that owns Grindr over concerns that data gathered by the app could be used to blackmail Americans.
(Tyler O’neill/Dreamstime / TNS)

The Chinese company that owns Grindr, the world’s most popular gay dating app, has revived a plan for a public stock offering after a U.S. national security panel dropped its opposition to the idea.

Beijing Kunlun Tech, a gaming company, said in a filing to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States “now had no opposition to launching the listing process” for Grindr.

CFIUS, which reviews the national security implications of foreign investments, had stopped Kunlun’s first attempt to list West Hollywood-based Grindr last September, the Chinese company said.

The U.S. government deemed the initial IPO plan insufficient to address its concerns over Chinese control of Grindr, preferring that Kunlun make a fast exit through an outright sale.

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Kunlun said it planned to list Grindr, either wholly or in part, on a foreign stock exchange at a time “dependent on overseas market conditions.” The company’s stockholders are due to vote on the listing proposal on Aug. 15.

Earlier this year, people in Washington familiar with the situation said CFIUS was pressuring Kunlun to sell Grindr over concerns that data gathered by the app on its more than 3 million daily users, who are mostly gay, bi, trans and queer men, could be used to blackmail Americans.

One former senior intelligence official said the government was increasingly scrutinizing Chinese firms that owned social media groups.

Kunlun said in May it had reached an agreement with CFIUS to sell Grindr by June 2020. The company also promised that it would not transfer any sensitive data from Grindr to China, and that it would stop its operations in China, keeping its headquarters in the U.S.

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The CFIUS decision to intervene long after Kunlun first acquired a majority stake in Grindr in 2016 raised alarm among Chinese companies, which feared their U.S. investments might be retroactively reviewed.

The Trump administration has also expanded CFIUS’ powers to review investments in crfucial technologies, over concerns that Chinese investments could be used to gain access to valuable early-stage technologies.

Grindr, founded in 2009, pioneered the simple photo-based profiles that were subsequently popularized by Tinder and China’s Tantan. It allows users to contact one another by tapping on profile photos, which are presented to each user based on geographical distance and attributes such as race and sexual preference.

Grindr did not respond to a request for comment.

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