Shein looked to list in London after judging it unlikely that the US Securities and Exchange Commission would approve a New York IPO. Image Credit: Supplied

Online fashion retailer Shein confidentially filed papers with the UK authorities for a potential listing in London, according to people familiar with the matter.

The timing of an initial public offering, which would likely be London’s biggest in more than a decade, wasn’t immediately clear as Shein is still awaiting approval from the Chinese securities regulator, the people said. An IPO could value the fast fashion giant at about Pound50 billion ($63.3 billion), Bloomberg reported this month.

The preparations don’t necessarily mean an IPO is imminent, the people added. While the aim is for a second-half listing, there is no guarantee the company will proceed with a London IPO, one of the people said.

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Representatives for Shein and the Financial Conduct Authority declined to comment. Reuters had earlier reported on Shein’s confidential filing.

Shein’s IPO would mark a win for London, which has largely missed out on this year’s revival of European IPOs so far. The listing would potentially help London claw back a chunk of the market value it has lost from companies shifting their primary listings to New York.

Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch and her Labour Party counterpart Jonathan Reynolds discussed the prospect of a Shein listing as part of Bloomberg’s election debate on Monday.

Reynolds, who confirmed he has held meetings with Shein executives, said that a UK listing is a good way to ensure a business complies by Britain’s high standards. “If they’re doing business in the UK we should seek to regulate them from the UK,” he said on Monday in the debate at Bloomberg’s European headquarters in London.

Badenoch said she has not met Shein and flagged concerns around the tax loophole it uses by sending goods direct to customers, as well as allegations about working practices in China.

The firm “- which sells items such as shirts and swimsuits for as little as $2 “- will also have to win over investors increasingly focused on environmental, social, and governance issues. It hired a new global head of ESG several years ago who has been working on strengthening sustainability and changing the company’s image.

Founded in China and now headquartered in Singapore, Shein looked to list in London after judging it unlikely that the US Securities and Exchange Commission would approve a New York IPO, Bloomberg News reported in February.

The FCA has the power to refuse IPO applications if the watchdog thinks it would be detrimental to investors’ interests.

The company has also been drawn under the scope of flagship European Union rules designed to clamp down on illegal and harmful content online, aimed at stopping the spread of counterfeit items on the platform, Bloomberg News reported in April. Shein said at the time that the company shares “the commission’s ambition” and is “committed to playing our part.”