Qunar Boosts IPO Price Range, NQ Hit Again

Qunar raises IPO price range

Anyone who was worried that the recent short-seller attack on security software provider NQ Mobile (NYSE: NQ) might hurt broader sentiment towards Chinese firms on Wall Street can relax, following word that 1 of 2 upcoming IPOs is drawing strong investor interest. That’s my quick assessment, based on a report that online travel agent Qunar has sharply boosted the price range for its upcoming IPO that will probably launch in the next few days. That could mean another IPO from online classified jobs site 58.com should also price well later on Thursday before its New York trading debut. Meantime, NQ continues to struggle as it comes under yet another attack and a string of rumors about clients who are cutting business ties with the company.

The bottom line in all this is that investors appear willing to treat NQ Mobile’s woes as an isolated case, which should be good for an upcoming pipeline of IPOs by Chinese tech firms in New York. Such an outcome isn’t too surprising, as NQ was among a group of firms that went public just before a series of accounting scandals that began more than 2 years ago. Oversight by both the securities regulator and private underwriters has become much tougher since then, meaning investors can be more confident that financial statements are more reliable from this upcoming group of IPO candidates.

All that said, let’s take a look at the latest report that says Qunar, which is majority owned by online search leader Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU), has raised the price range for its upcoming IPO to $12-$14 per American Depositary Share (ADS). (English article) The company had previously set a range of $9.50 to $11.50 in a public filing 2 weeks ago. Qunar will issue 11.1 million ADSs, meaning it could now raise up to $155 million, quite a bit higher than the $128 million it previously forecast.

Perhaps Qunar was helped by the fact that parent Baidu posted better-than-expected results earlier this week, or perhaps potential buyers are betting the company could receive a strategic investment from online travel leader Ctrip (Nasdaq: CTRP). Whatever the reason, this 20 percent raising of its price range is certainly good news for Chinese tech firms lining up to list in New York, including 58.com, which also hopes to raise up to $150 million later this week.

Meantime, the latest news isn’t good for NQ Mobile, which before last week’s short-seller attack had seen its shares quadruple this year on strong growth prospects. All that ended, however, when notorious short seller Muddy Waters published a report last week questioning many of NQ’s numbers and calling the company a massive fraud. NQ Mobile’s shares lost more than half of their value in the following days, as more rumors came out that it had lost one of its important customers. A flood of investor lawsuits came out as well, and NQ Mobile itself sued Muddy Waters in a Chinese court.

Now media are saying that Muddy Waters has released a second report in response to NQ’s denial of the original allegations. (Chinese article) The new report points out more inaccuracies that Muddy Waters has found in NQ’s recent statements following the original attack. At this point the main damage seems to be past, and NQ’s shares have actually bounced back somewhat. They closed up 11.3 percent in regular trade on Wednesday and another 2.7 percent after hours to $12.58. That’s still just half of where they were before the attack, but up quite a bit from their low of $7.58. If I were betting I would say there could be a more upside in the stock over the next 1-2 months, though the situation will remain volatile for the next couple of weeks.

Bottom line: Qunar’s upward revision to its price range bodes well for a pipeline of new IPOs by Chinese tech firms, which appear unaffected by a recent attack on NQ Mobile.

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