Beware of Chinese Stocks on OTCBB

by: John Christy

If you’re convinced that you have come across an amazing, undiscovered Chinese company trading on the OTC Bulletin Board, do yourself a favor and check out Peter Fuhrman’s blog China First Capital. Peter’s an investment banker who specializes in raising capital for Chinese companies and he knows the Chinese IPO landscape pretty well. And it’s hardly the bargain hunter’s paradise that it might appear.

I sometimes think the Chinese term for IPO, “??” ( “shang shi”) has magical, intoxicating effect on some Chinese bosses. They hear it and suspend all their normal caution and suspicion. Soon, they end up agreeing to what are often truly disastrous transactions that don’t even deserve the name IPO.

There are, by some estimates, several hundred Chinese companies now listed on the OTCBB that are somewhere between “on life support” and “clinically dead”. Their share prices fell steeply immediately after listing (by which time the advisers, bankers and lawyers all pocketed their fees and lined up their next victims) and are below $1. There is little to no liquidity. They often trade at PE multiples of 1-2x. The costs of retaining the OTCBB listing are bleeding the companies of badly-needed money. They have no chance to raise additional capital, nor to do much of anything (except waste money on Investor Relations firms) to lift their share price.

I get angry just thinking about this. I’m offended that people in my field of work would be involved in such self-serving, greed-ridden transactions. Secondly, it’s also brought a lot of harm, and sometimes complete failure, to what were very good Chinese SME companies that once had bright futures, until they had the misfortune of putting their financial futures in the hands of these advisors.

Peter doesn’t name names, but he provides some detailed case studies in a follow-up post entitled “Built to Fail”. It’s fascinating - and very sobering stuff.