Weibo IPO could value company at about $3.9 bn

Written by Reuters | Beijing | Updated: Apr 7 2014, 21:16pm hrs
China's Weibo said it expected its initial public offering of 20 million American depository shares to be priced at $17-19 each, valuing the Twitter-like messaging service at about $3.9 billion.

The IPO is expected to raise about $380 million at the top end of the expected price range.

Weibo, owned by Sina Corp, is the latest Chinese internet giant to tap US markets, following on the heels of search service Baidu and its own corporate parent.

Alibaba Group Holding, which owns a stake in Weibo, is expected to raise about $15 billion in New York this year, in the biggest internet IPO since Facebook's debut in 2012. Sina, which holds about 78% of Weibo, would see its stake drop to about 57% after the offering.

Weibo intends to list its common stock on the Nasdaq under the symbol "WB". The number of Chinese companies looking to list shares on the US exchanges have risen steadily since last year despite simmering concerns among investors about Chinese accounting standards.

Weibo's advertising and marketing revenue rose almost three times to $148.42 million in 2013.

Total revenue rose to $188.3 million in 2013 from $65.9 million while net loss narrowed to $38.1 million from $102.5 million.

Goldman Sachs (Asia) and Credit Suisse are the lead underwriters for the offering.

Weibo said last month that it was planning to float in the US, following in the footsteps of Twitter, which made its market debut last November. The San Francisco business defied critics by going public with a valuation of $14.2 billion, despite the fact it doesnt make a profit.

That figure later soared to nearly $40 billion as its shares jumped, although it has since fallen back to $24.3 billion.

Weibos ambitions look far more modest by comparison. The Chinese company has half of the number of users as Twitter, and last year generated $188 million in revenues. Weibo, which is allowed to operate in China because it has agreed to censor user posts, already has a huge following in the country and is reported to be growing at the rate of 20 million new users every month.

It started introducing adverts to the social network in 2012 in order to turn that popularity into money, but has lately run into criticism from users who claim it is becoming too clogged with promotional material.