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IPOs: Floodgates Open With Tencent, Sohu, Bona, Fintech Listings

Bottom line: A periodic window of IPOs that opens every 2-3 years is taking shape, with fintechs and other new categories like online literature likely to do well, while older concepts  like e-commerce could struggle for attention.

New window opens for Chinese IPOs

My long-predicted IPO floodgate has finally burst, with no less than four major offerings in the headlines as we go into the new week. The new offerings I’m referring to involve two in the US, one for fintech startup Ppdai and another that has been talked about forever for Sogou, the search engine backed by Internet superstar Tencent (HKEx: 700) and the less steller Sohu (Nasdaq: SOHU).

Meantime, one of the other IPOs also involves Tencent, with its China Reading online literature unit getting cleared by the Hong Kong stock exchange and set to file its prospectus. Last but not least is Bona Film, the formerly New York-listed company that has been cleared for a re-listing in China.  Read Full Post…

IPOs: Tencent Literature IPO Nears Take-Off, But Will It Read?

Bottom line: China Reading’s IPO should be well received when it launches its road show as soon next week, and the shares should price and debut strongly on its good profit margins and growth prospects.

China Reading set to launch IPO road show

Another hot IPO with ties to one of China’s leading Internet firms is nearing the starting line, with word that the highly anticipated listing for Tencent’s (HKEx: 700) online literature unit is finally going to kick off shortly. That means we will finally get to see some financials for China Reading, whose plans for an $800 million IPO have been discussed since as early as February.

In fact, this particular IPO has been discussed for far longer than that, since the company has gone through a number of forms in its long march to market. I’ll recount that shortly, but will begin with some quick thoughts on this offering’s chances for success. We’ve already seen in this burgeoning IPO season that having a pedigree from a name like Tencent doesn’t guarantee success, as was the case with Alibaba-backed logistics firm Best Inc. (NYSE: BSTI).  That IPO priced miserably due to stiff competition in the logistics space, and the stock is only up a modest 6 percent since it started trading in New York. Read Full Post…

IPOs: ZhongAn Pops in Trading Debut, But Does It Have Legs?

Bottom line: ZhongAn should perform reasonably well over the short- to medium-term by drawing on its big-name investors for business, but faces uncertainty due to an untested business model.

ZhongAn banks on online insurance

There’s not a ton to say about the year’s first blockbuster IPO from the fintech realm, since it really went pretty much according to plan. I’m talking about the just-concluded listing for online-only insurance startup ZhongAn Online Property & Casualty Insurance, which was almost guaranteed a strong debut when its shares began trading yesterday in Hong Kong.

The bigger question for ZhongAn and its other fintech peers will be whether they can continue to thrive once the spotlights are gone and they have to do business over the longer term. Anyone can pretty up their books in the run-up to an IPO, but keeping the business flowing afterwards is often a bit more problematic. ZhongAn could be a good case in point, as its product lineup seems to be constantly evolving, as does the lineup for many of these fintech firms, due to individual and broader industry factors. Read Full Post…

IPOs: Biotech Listing Pops, E-Commerce Flops, Fintech to Come

Bottom line: A flurry of IPOs for offshore Chinese tech firms marks the start of an upcycle following a three year lull, with fintechs likely to be the top stars.

Secoo fizzles in trading debut

After a relatively boring first eight months of the year, the IPO market has suddenly come to life with a flurry of offerings that are turning in a mixed performance. E-commerce seems to be a bit passe, though you would never guess that based on the recent run-up in the stock of sector lead Alibaba’s (NYSE: BABA) stock. Meantime, a small-ish biotech offering has wowed investors, and the best looks set to come with a couple of fintech offerings this week and towards the middle of October.

This particular spurt looks at least partly tied to the Chinese National Day holiday that will see the entire country basically close for all of next week, prompting companies that have been waiting to list to speed up the process to finish beforehand. Last week we saw logistics specialist Best Inc (NYSE: BSTI) deliver an offering to tepid response, followed by a much better result for money-losing biotech start up Zai Lab (Nasdaq: ZLAB). The week ended with a fizzle for luxury e-commerce firm Secoo on the Nasdaq. This week before the holiday, we could see debuts for the year’s first $1 billion-plus offerings from fintech firm ZhongAn Insurance. That should be followed by another fintech mega-deal by Qudian in mid-October . Read Full Post…

IPOs: Fintech Hot, Logistics Not in New Listings for Qudian, Best

Bottom line: ZhongAn’s and Qudian’s IPOs are likely to price and debut strongly over the next few weeks on excitement about China fintech, while Best’s will debut to indifference following the slashing of its size.

ZhongAn, Qudian IPOs look hot

Three companies likely to list in New York and Hong Kong by the end of this month are setting the tone for what’s set to be a busy fall for similar new offshore offerings from Chinese companies. Two of those are coming from the hot fintech sector, where online microlender Qudian and online insurance seller ZhongAn appear to be drawing strong interest in IPOs that could each raise north of $1 billion. But logistics company Best Inc is moving firmly in the other direction, with the announcement that it has just slashed the size of its fund-raising plan by nearly half.

Neither of these themes is completely surprising, since fintech has become a hugely lucrative area in China due to the relatively greenfield nature of the sector. Until only very recently, nearly all financial services in China were dominated by state-run companies, which aren’t exactly known for their innovation and embrace of technology. That’s also partly true for logistics, though in that case the industry has quickly become a bit of a bloodbath plagued with cutthroat competition among around 10 major players. Read Full Post…

M&A: Cowen, MoneyGram Deals Wait for US Nod, Xinhua Lectures Trump

Bottom line: The US could veto the purchase of brokerage Cowen by a Chinese energy firm, and could also block Ant Financial’s purchase of MoneyGram under tougher scrutiny by the Donald Trump administration.

US set to block more Chinese purchases?

Just days after President Donald Trump made his first veto of a Chinese deal in the US, two other deals appear to be running into trouble for similar reasons, though it’s too early to call either dead just yet. In both instances, the buyers, Ant Financial and CEFC China Energy, have refiled proposals to regulators for their purchases of two financial services firms, MoneyGram (NYSE: MGI) and Cowen Inc. (Nasdaq: COWN), respectively. Both need approval from the powerful Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which reviews all such cross-border deals for national security considerations.

The regulatory stalling of those two deals comes just days after Trump officially killed another deal for a China-backed bid to buy Lattice Semiconductor (Nasdaq: LSCC), (previous post). So now people are trying to draw connections between these developments. Since that veto, China’s official Xinhua news agency has come out with an editorial over the weekend saying Trump is only hurting America by blocking such deals, which are part of the natural ebb and flow of global trade. Read Full Post…

MEDIA: Tencent, Alibaba in Music Swap as Regulator Gets Involved

Bottom line: A new music re-licensing deal between Alibaba and Tencent, combined with a meeting between the copyright regulator and major online music sellers, hint at attempts to create a more level playing field in the space.

Alibaba, Tencent in music cross-licensing deal

A couple of items from the music sector are in the headlines today, showing how tricky the situation is becoming with copyrights and online licensing in China. One of those has two major players, the music services of Internet giants Alibaba (NYSE: BABA) and Tencent (HKEx: 700), signing an agreement to cross-license music to each other when one of them owns the rights to such music. The other has China’s copyright office actually calling a meeting between those two companies and two other major players, NetEase (Nasdaq: NTES) and Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU), to discuss issues confronting the industry.

Two issues appear to be driving these two deals that appear to be related. One is concerns from the music industry that rights to their songs will become fragmented and confined to single platforms under the current licensing system, limiting consumer choice. Similar concerns might also be what’s driving the regulator to get involved as well. An interesting footnote to this might be whether the same thing could soon happen in the video licensing arena, which shares similar issues. Read Full Post…

IPOs: Alibaba-Backed Logistics Firm Stumbles Towards IPO Gate

Bottom line: Best Inc is likely to make its New York IPO in the next two weeks, but its shares will price in the middle of their range and debut weakly due to stiff competition in the logistics sector.

Best Inc. raises IPO target

It’s been a quiet year so far for major Chinese IPOs in New York, but all that looks set to change soon with several major offerings coming down the pipeline. One of those is in the headlines as we head into the end of August, with word that Best Inc, also known as Best Logistics, is driving towards a New York offering that will raise up to $1 billion. That deal was first announced in June, so it’s a bit unclear why it has taken so long to jump back into the headlines with this boosted fund-raising target.

Based on what I’m hearing from one of my sources, the US securities regulator is giving extra scrutiny to a group of fintech companies that are all lining up to list in New York before the end of the year, due to the newness of the business type. Best Inc doesn’t really fall into that group, as it’s in a traditional business that’s thriving due to China’s e-commerce boom. What’s more, this company is also backed by e-commerce giant Alibaba (NYSE: BABA), and counts the former head of Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) China as its chief. Read Full Post…

E-COMMERCE: JD.com Shops for Expansion in Thailand

Bottom line:  JD.com’s Thai joint venture looks like a smart move into Southeast Asia, though it shouldn’t move too aggressively abroad and instead focus on becoming profitable.

JD.com tests out Thailand

China’s big Internet companies have a pretty varied record for expanding abroad. At one extreme there’s Alibaba (NYSE: BABA), which is using its big cash pot to buy a wide range of assets concentrated mostly in East and South Asia. Tencent (HKEx: 700) is in the middle, mostly buying strategic stakes in game-related companies, while Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU) appears to have mostly abandoned the market after a few half-hearted attempts at global M&A and trying to open search sites in other countries.

And then there’s Johnny-come-lately JD.com (Nasdaq: JD), which admittedly has a far shorter history and is also the only one of the four leading Internet companies that’s still losing money. But that doesn’t mean that JD doesn’t have cash, and now it appears the company is looking to make its biggest splash abroad to date with the formation of a joint venture in Thailand. Read Full Post…

TELECOMS: Giddy Unicom Picks 14 Mixed-Ownership Partners

Bottom line: Unicom’s choice of 14 partners for a mixed-ownership reform plan involving its Shanghai-listed unit is far too many, and is ultimately likely to fail when those partners become frustrated and sell their shares.

Unicom puts 14 new partners into its mix

What I feared might happen has come to pass in a mixed-ownership reform plan being crafted by China Unicom (HKEx: 762; NYSE: CHU), one of the nation’s three telcos that is experimenting with selling some of itself to private investors. That’s a reference to reports in early August that the company might be planning to take on as many as 20 partners in the plan to sell a significant stake in its Shanghai-listed unit, China United Network Communications (Shanghai: 600050), to strategic private investors.

My worry was that taking on so many partners would effectively dilute the plan, since none of the partners would receive a very big stake and Unicom’s attention would be too fragmented. As it turns out, the number 20 was a bit too high, but not far off the mark. That’s the latest word, as Unicom has finally announced its mixed-ownership reform plan that will see it partner with 14 private companies in a bid to become more dynamic. Read Full Post…

RETAIL: Alibaba, Tencent Take Wars to Convenience Stores

Bottom line: Alibaba’s move into unmanned coffee shops could stand a strong chance of success due to its relative simplicity, while WeChat’s move into Hong Kong convenience stores should also be relatively well received.

Alibaba samples coffee shops

Convenience stores are shaping up as the next battlefield in the wars for supremacy between Internet titans Alibaba (NYSE: BABA) and Tencent (HKEx: 700), at least based on the latest headlines. One of those has Alibaba preparing to roll out an unmanned coffee store concept in its hometown of Hangzhou, while the other has Tencent’s WeChat rolling into Hong Kong in a big way in a new tie-up with 7-Eleven convenience stores.

Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX) probably doesn’t need to be too worried just yet about the new threat from Alibaba in coffee shops, though many of the dozens of smaller coffee chains that have set up shop in China these last few years might take note. Likewise, Hong Kong’s incumbent electronic payments service, Octopus, probably doesn’t need to worry just yet either. Read Full Post…