58.com's offering signals 'growing demand'

Updated: 2013-11-01 12:00

By Amy He in New York (China Daily USA)

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58.com, touted as the "Chinese Craigslist", made its debut on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday morning and raised $187 million with its initial public offering.

The company sold 11 million American depositary shares at $17 apiece, above the $15 to $16 range it expected. Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse Group and Citigroup Inc were the lead underwriters.

Shares trading under the symbol WUBA opened at $21.20 and hit a high of $26.62 during the day, jumping 41.9 percent to close at $24.12.

The Beijing-based 58.com is an online marketplace that lets individuals and businesses post classified ads. Founded in 2005, the company also sells marketing services to merchants, teaching them how to better use 58.com's web space to attract customers. It has 130 million monthly users and 4.3 million active merchants, according to its IPO filing. It operates out of 380 cities in China.

In a quiet year for Chinese companies listing in the US, 58.com is only the second Chinese company to go public, following online retailer LightInTheBox's debut in June. US-listed Chinese companies have been hurt by accounting scandals and accusations of fraud.

"We are not influenced by [the scandals]," 58.com CEO Yao Jinbo told China Daily. "The crisis is not as serious as people think."

"We hope all companies do well with their IPOs. 58.com aims to be a model for Chinese companies that want to go public in the US," he added

A strong debut by 58.com shows interest on the part of US investors in Chinese stocks once again, analysts said.

"To the extent that [58.com] came public with a credible underwriting team and a credible auditor, and they came public via IPO, that I think bodes well for what US-based investors are going to pay for the stock," said Tim Hanson, senior analyst at Motley Fool Asset Management.

Hanson said that although the year has been quiet for Chinese listings in the US, 58.com realized that there was "growing investor demand for Chinese internet names" and thought that now was "probably as good time as any" for an IPO.

Two components of 58.com's strong debut, according to Hanson, are the quality of the company being listed and that the macro data coming out of China hasn't "been as bad as some people have feared."

In addition, 58.com was branded well, he said because from a marketing perspective, pushing the company as the Craigslist of China was an important part of strengthening the IPO.

"The success of an IPO, as much as a rational market would like to think it's based on the financials in the business plan, it is kind of a marketing exercise," Hanson said. "Anything where you can say 'Weibo is the Twitter of China' or 'Baidu is the Google of China' or '58.com is the Craigslist of China,'" gets people to respond to the company. "They successfully told that story," Hanson added.

The company reported $285,000 in profit and revenue of $58.8 million in the first half of the year, according to its filing report.

Wan Li contributed to this story.


(China Daily USA 11/01/2013 page10)