FILE PHOTO: A customer uses a Xiaomi smartphone at a Xiaomi store in Beijing.

INTERNATIONAL – Many Xiaomi investors, who could only watch as the stock shed $14 billion (R195bn) in market value, are now able to join in on the selling.

Expiring Wednesday was the six-month lockup period that followed the company’s Hong Kong debut, during which some employees and cornerstone investors were banned from disposing of their allocated shares. 

It’s been painful: Xiaomi has dropped to HK$10.34 from a listing price of HK$17, losing another 6.9 percent Wednesday on almost seven times its average volume of the past three months.

More than 3 billion shares were unlocked, equal to about 19 percent of those outstanding, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The lockup period for controlling shareholders – such as chairman and founder Lei Jun – was extended Wednesday for another 365 days, Xiaomi said in a statement. It was previously due to expire in July.

Touted by bankers last year as China’s answer to Apple, Beijing-based Xiaomi sought a valuation that would have made it the most expensive smartphone maker in the world. 

The stock trades at 16 times projected 12-month earnings, less than half its July multiple. It’s still 32 percent more expensive than Apple, which is reeling from its worst quarterly rout in more than a decade.

To be sure, longer-term investors may want to hold on to Xiaomi’s shares rather than dump them at a loss. 

Analysts still predict Xiaomi will rebound to $16.72 on average within the next year. Hedge funds have been increasing their bearish bets, with almost 30 million shares sold short Tuesday, the most since August.

Xiaomi attracted the likes of China Mobile and US. wireless-chip giant Qualcomm Inc. as cornerstone investors last year.