IPOs

World Chess sells digital tokens as it launches 'hybrid IPO'

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World Chess, a media and online gaming company that has previously held the rights to broadcast the World Chess Championships, has announced a "hybrid IPO" for 2020 that will see it issue digital tokens before floating shares on the stock market.

From Friday, World Chess will make its security tokens available for sale to accredited investors in the U.S. and the EU.

The tokens will grant private investors early ownership of the World Chess shares, as they can either be converted to shares following the IPO or privately traded between accredited investors.

World Chess CEO Ilya Merenzon told CNBC in an email Friday that Securitize would oversee the sale of the tokens, with buyers being accredited by the firm in order to comply with regulations.

Shares of World Chess are expected to be floated on London's Alternative Investment Market (AIM) next year, the company announced, although specifics around the timing are yet to be confirmed.

Merenzon said in a press release on Friday that the "hybrid IPO" could set a precedent for new technologies to be used more widely in fundraising rounds.

"(This is) a pioneering financial innovation, (and) one, I believe, many companies will use to raise funds in the future," she said.

World Chess' IPO plans follow a string of alternative sports broadcasters and gaming platforms who have made their stock public in recent years. World Chess held organizational and commercial rights for the chess World Championship until the end of 2018.

Gfinity, a company that broadcasts competitive video game tournaments — or esports — floated its shares on London's AIM in 2014. Shares have seen a sharp downward turn in the five years since the IPO.

In July, Chinese sports events company Wanda Sports Group raised $190.4 million from its U.S. IPO, while Chinese esports streaming platform DouYu International raised $775 million by listing on the Nasdaq in the same month.

Meanwhile, reports emerged earlier this year that international sports streaming site DAZN is planning a London listing.

The alternative fundraising proposal is just the latest in a number of new ideas that have sprung up in the last few years. In 2017, a number of start-ups launched initial coin offerings (ICOs), which sold new digital tokens in exchange for cryptocurrency investments into companies.

The ICOs, which are unregulated in most countries, raised $3.8 billion in that year — but they have also been embroiled in controversy. In 2018, for instance, scammers made off with more than $2 million in cryptocurrency after carrying out a fake ICO.

— CNBC's Arjun Kharpal contributed to this article.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that the broadcast rights for the chess World Championship is no longer held by World Chess.

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