LinkedIn (LNKD +4.7%) has hired Derek Shen, previously the CEO of Chinese group-buying site Nuomi (now controlled by Baidu), to be the head of its Chinese unit (a newly-created role). Shen will be based out of Beijing.
The hiring is widely being taken as a sign LinkedIn, whose services (unlike Facebook and Twitter's) aren't blocked in China, will soon be launching a Chinese site. The company currently has an office in Hong Kong, but not on the mainland.
Several LinkedIn clones already exist in the Middle Kingdom, but none have taken off the way LinkedIn has in the U.S. and certain international markets. Government agency CNNIC estimates China had 617.6M Internet users at the end of 2013, and 500.1M mobile Internet users. Just 4M of LinkedIn's 259M registered users are currently in China.
Shares are now up 14% from the near-term bottom they set on Jan. 7, following a BofA/Merrill downgrade.