Second IPO Wind Lifts Zhaopin, Xunlei, Dianping

Includes: JD, WB, XNET, ZPIN
by: Doug Young

After going the entire week without a major IPO story, 3 major developments are showing there's still some life in the market despite earlier signs of stumbling. At the top of the news is online recruiting site Zhaopin (NYSE: ZPIN), which has just posted a nice trading debut after a solid pricing for its new American Depositary Shares (ADSs). Meantime, video sharing site Xunlei is steaming ahead with its own listing by formally setting a price range for its shares, which means a final pricing and trading debut are likely next week. Last but not least there's restaurant ratings site Dianping, which has formally hired investment banks for a new mega offering to raise up to $1 billion.

The New York market for Chinese Internet IPOs first came back to life in the second half of last year, following a 2-year chill sparked by a series of accounting scandals. But then sentiment started to waver in April, leading to disappointing performances by a number of companies, most notably Weibo (Nasdaq: WB), the social networking leader often called the Twitter of China.

Then the market began to show new signs of life in May with the successful listing of (Nasdaq: JD), China's second largest e-commerce site, hinting at a second wind as some investor enthusiasm returned. Now Zhaopin is providing further proof of that rebound, based on the solid performance of its shares in their new IPO.

Zhaopin priced its shares exactly in the middle of their previously set range, selling them for $13.50 each versus a range of $12.50-$14.50, raising about $95 million. (Chinese article) That may not look spectacular, but the company itself isn't all that exciting and the pricing was still quite strong compared to some of the offerings in April. The shares initially jumped above $16 when trading began, and ultimately ended their first day up a respectable 8.5 percent at $14.65.

Next let's look at Xunlei (NASDAQ:XNET), which made the first public filing for its IPO nearly 3 weeks ago and now has formally announced a range of $9-$11 for its ADSs (Chinese article). What's most interesting is its fund raising target, which could reach up to $92.5 million if it prices at the top of its range. That's not too bad, since it's relatively close to the company's originally announced plan to raise up to $100 million.

Like Zhaopin, Xunlei isn't too exciting as a growth story. The company is one of the last remaining independent video sharing sites in China, and has a troubled history of piracy on its site and aborted attempts at previous IPOs. Xunlei became profitable in 2012, and its profit jumped nearly 20-fold to about $10 million last year. Its revenue grew at a slower 24 percent last year to $175 million.

The modest revenue growth could make Xunlei a good proxy for market sentiment in the next few weeks. If the IPO does well, it will mean that sentiment is strong since investors are still willing to buy shares of very mediocre companies like Xunlei. But I expect the offering could price weakly, and the shares could even fall on their debut.

Last let's look quickly at Dianping, which is the most exciting of the 3 companies I've written about in this post. Dianping is often compared to US restaurant ratings giant Yelp (NYSE: YELP), and made headlines earlier this year when it won a major strategic investment from Internet titan Tencent (OTCPK:TCEHY) (HKEx: 700). Now media are saying the company has hired Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank for an IPO to raise between $500 million and $1 billion. (English article)

There's not much more detail in the report, though the hiring of investment banks usually means an IPO could come in the next 3-6 months. In Dianping's case I would expect the underwriters may try to rush an offering to take advantage of current sentiment, which could remain relatively positive for attractive market leaders like Dianping for the next couple of months.

Bottom line: Zhaoping's solid IPO performance shows there's still some positive sentiment in the market, but Xunlei's upcoming offering could struggle to find an audience due to its weak position.

Disclosure: None.