China’s Facebook, Renren.com listed on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday under the ticker symbol RENN, becoming the first social networking website and largest Chinese technology group this year, to list on the exchange. Shares of Renren surged 29 percent to close at US$18.01 on its first day of trading. Giving a greater impetus to Facebook and Linkedin both of which are expected to list on the NYSE next year, renren ecstatically displayed the enthusiasm investors have for tapping into the social needs of consumers, more so Asian consumers of which they still don’t have a firm footing.
While renren started its virtual world journey in 2007 as a Chinese version of Facebook, the social networking site which boasts 117 million users as of March 31, according to its prospectus, less than a quarter of the more than 500 million users Facebook has globally has transformed itself over the last few years to cater more towards the Chinese consumer that constantly flocks towards it. The Beijing-based company unlike its inspiration Facebook, earns 60 percent of its revenues from games it develops the remaining 40 percent is from advertisements, this is in start contrast to Facebook which earns a majority of its revenues from applications. As a result, by understanding and catering to the Chinese consumer, renren has been able to differentiate itself and create its own identity in the past few years.
While renren hasn’t yet made more than US$5 million in profit, (Renren reported a loss of US$ 64.2 million in 2010 on revenue of US$ 76.5 million) the company raised US$743.4 million through the sale of 53.1 million American depositary receipts, after pricing its offering at the high end of the proposed range of US$12-14, and an additional US$111.6 million through an overallotment option with underwriters. The US$14 price tag values the social networking company at 72 times last year’s sales revenue, nearly three times the valuation that Goldman Sachs’ recent investment gave Facebook, which is banned in China. Renren, at a market value of US$7.5bn, is valued at nearly 100 times last year’s net revenues of US$76.5m, which strips out rebates to advertisers commonly paid in China. Analysts also expect the renren did well due to its predecessor Youku, a streaming video service, which surged 147 percent, the most of any US listing since 2007. Renren isn’t yet listed in China.
The company said in the filing that it plans to use net proceeds and concurrent private placements to invest in its technology and research and development; to expand its sales and marketing operations and for general corporate purposes such as potential acquisitions and investments.
Major investors in Renren include Softbank Corp’s SB Pan Pacific Corporation, with 39.6 percent, venture firm DCM, with 8.6percent; and growth equity firm General Atlantic LLC with 5.3percent. Renren founder and Chief Executive Joseph Chen, is selling 13 million shares to take his ownership from 28 percent to 23 percent.
Prospering from China’s internal push to alleviate domestic companies and make them competitive enough to succeed internationally, Tudou, China’s second largest video websites, is preparing an initial public offering on the Nasdaq exchange within the next few months with hopes of raising US$100~150 million, amid fierce competition in the sector.