Zhaopin IPO raises $76m on NYSE

Updated: 2014-06-13 07:26

By JACK FREIFELDER in New York (China Daily USA)

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Zhaopin IPO raises $76m on NYSE
Members of Zhaopin Ltd's leadership team ring the Opening Bell at The New York Stock Exchange on June 12, 2014 in New York City. The company raised $76 million in its IPO on Thursday. Photo / Provided To China Daily

Zhaopin Ltd, China's most popular online jobs site, went public Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange, raising $75.7 million and adding to the trend of Chinese companies offering IPOs in the United States.

Zhaopin CEO Evan Guo said the listing is a "very important event” for both the company's internal and external operations.

"Zhaopin is a very popular brand in China," Guo said Thursday in an interview with China Daily. "The listing internally will bring us more rigid accounting policies, but I think the branding is quite critical."

"Externally, this will help us better establish a brand with job seekers," he said. "And it fuels the credibility attached to the listing."

Zhaopin, founded in 1994, is a leading online-based employment recruitment platform in China. Operating out of its Beijing headquarters, the company offers services to more than 75 million registered users in China.

The company controls the most popular online jobs portal in China, as measured by unique daily visitors, per data from iResearch, a China-based Internet consulting group. And Guo said Zhaopin is also the second largest job recruitment provider based on revenue; second only to China-based 51job Inc.

SEEK International, Australia's largest online job site, is the majority owner of Zhaopin, with close to an 80-percent stake in the company, per data from company officials.

For the nine-month period that ended March 31, more than 11 million job postings were placed online with Zhaopin, a year-on-year increase of 56 percent according to company data.

Employers featured on Zhaopin's site include multinational corporations, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and state-owned entities (SOEs).

Managers of Zhaopin's offering sold 5.61 million American depositary shares (ADS) at $13.50, the midpoint of the marketed range of $12.50 to $14.50 apiece. Trading under the symbol "ZPIN", shares opened at $13.50 and hit a high of $16.20 in the early afternoon before eventually closing at $14.65, up $1.15, or 8.5 percent.

Managing the deal for Zhaopin were Credit Suisse Securities and UBS Securities Investment Bank.

Zhaopin has also secured a concurrent private placement deal with Apax Partners, a New York-based equity-management group, which in conjunction with stock options for underwriters could bring the total raised through Zhaopin's offering to more than $100 million.

Zhaopin is the latest Chinese company to go public in the US this year, a list that now includes the better part of 20 companies, according to Bloomberg News.

Three weeks ago, e-commerce giant JD.com raised $1.78 billion in the biggest IPO in the US by a Chinese company to date; it also gave the firm a foothold in the US market ahead of its much larger rival Alibaba Holdings Group Ltd, China's No 1 e-commerce firm. Alibaba's IPO, expected to be held later this year, could exceed $20 billion, according to some estimates.

Guo, Zhaopin’s CEO, said the number of successful IPOs have helped give people confidence about Chinese companies in the stock market, but he also said US investors are changing what they look for in an investment opportunity.

“They’re not just looking for any Chinese stock,” Guo said. “[Americans investors] want to look into the story, see execution power and make sure it’s the right investment.”

“JD.com and all those IPOs are good for us, but on the other hand it’s only good to a certain extent,” he said. “The fundamentals of business logic is very easy to be understood and the US investor is becoming increasingly sophisticated and mature about the market.”

Josef Schuster, founder of Ipox Schuster LLC, a Chicago-based independent financial-services firm specializing in global IPOs, said Zhaopin wants to concentrate on the Chinese market because “that's where their stronghold is".

"They seem to be valued in line, but it always depends on whether they meet the fundamentals of earnings and revenue growth,” Schuster said. “If they do, I think the stock can outperform. The best thing for the share price is if the company really focuses on their stronghold.”

Schuster also said Zhaopin is part of "another huge wave of Chinese IPO activity" taking advantage of the "window of opportunity" for Chinese IPOs ahead of Alibaba.

“Investors seem to have forgotten what has happened to many Chinese IPOs in the past,” Schuster said. “Deals right now are obviously more expensive that they used to be … therefore it will be more difficult to outperform.”

“You’ve got to put faith in the companies,” he said. “If they meet earnings and fundamentals, then they’re here to stay.”

The other successful Chinese IPOs in the US this year may give investors confidence about Zhaopin's prospects, but at the end of the day Guo said US investors are looking for solid growth, "not just in revenue, but also for profits”.

"We're very proud not only because we have commercial value, but also social value," Guo said. "We're not only helping people find a job, we're helping them develop a career.”