Online firm Wowo raises $40m in IPO

Updated: 2015-04-09 05:43

By JACK FREIFELDER in New York(China Daily USA)

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Online firm Wowo raises $40m in IPO

Maodong Xu, chairman and CEO of the Beijing-based e-commerce firm Wowo Ltd, is the first Chinese executive to see his company list on a US exchange in 2015. Wowo sold 4 million shares in a Wednesday offering at the Nasdaq Stock Market in New York, raising $40 million in the process.[Provided To China Daily]

Wowo Ltd, a Beijing-based e-commerce firm, had an initial public offering Wednesday on the Nasdaq Stock Market, raising $40 million in the first IPO from a Chinese company on a US exchange in 2015.

Trading under the symbol "WOWO", shares opened Nasdaq trading at $11.06, hitting a high of $11.63 before closing at $10.29, up 2.9 percent.

Managers of Wowo's offering sold 4 million American depositary shares (ADS) on Wednesday at $10, the midpoint of the marketed range of $9 to $11 apiece. Each ADS share represented 18 ordinary shares of the company. Axiom Capital Management managed the deal for Wowo.

Maodong Xu, Wowo's chairman and CEO, said it was a logical decision to list on "a larger capital market".

"US capital markets are more active, more mature and much bigger," Xu said through a translator. "The regulation here is definitely much more strict and disciplined, but if the company can adapt, it will become an advantage to be better managed, more disciplined financially, those sorts of things.

"That's going to help us," he said. "And it's going to promote the online-to-offline (O2O) model, making this field more active back in China.

"Wowo is not only the first Chinese company listed in this year, but it is also the first company listed here after China's Commerce Department Foreign Investment Law draft was released," Xu said. "That's why there are lots of questions from the American regulatory bodies.

"Wowo has been working back and forth with them to resolve these issues so they can understand the impact of the new foreign investment law to the companies with similar structures," Xu said. "In the foreseeable future, we're going to still be focusing on the China business. But, from the company side, we know there are uncertainties down the road."

O2O business models attract users online to make payments for goods and services, and direct them to physical stores for offline recovery.

Xu told China Daily that the majority of Chinese companies listing in the US this year would skew to the technology, media and telecom sectors (TMT).

"When Wowo was founded, we started to implement a system that would meet all these requirements, Sarbanes-Oxley, etc," he said. "We have been prepared to list here. We don't see this as extra burden; we see this as a way to help the company to be better managed.

"For the best companies in this TMT field, the US capital markets are definitely a better match for them," Xu said at Nasdaq. "We're still focused on the China market because it's big enough, but Wowo's successful listing is surely going to lead more Chinese companies to be listed here."

Founded in 2010, Wowo operates Chinese group-buying site The company focuses on local entertainment and lifestyle services, such as restaurants, movie theaters and beauty salons.

Wowo uses a multipronged platform to promote "direct interaction" between more than 2,000 local merchants and their customers in nearly 150 Chinese cities, according to a March 31 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Wowo attempted an earlier IPO in the US in 2011, but had to withdraw because of internal delays.

In addition to its e-commerce website, Wowo also supports infrastructure for real-time, location-based interaction through mobile devices.

As of Sept 30, the company had 17.3 million active mobile users on Wowo Mobile, and more than 105,000 merchants it works with across China, company data showed. The company had net revenue of $36.3 million for the 12-month period ended Dec 31, 2013.

In 2014, Chinese IPOs from the e-commerce sector dominated headlines with China's No 1 and No 2 e-commerce firms both making a splash in the US market.

In May, brought a $1.78 billion IPO to Nasdaq, and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd debuted in September with a $25 billion rollout at the New York Stock Exchange, the biggest IPO ever.

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