Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A China Play for Your Watch List

By Eric Jackson
RealMoney Contributor

11/23/2010 7:45 AM EST
Click here for more stories by Eric Jackson

Several China-based companies have held initial public offerings (IPOs) in the U.S. over the past couple weeks. There is also a significant backlog of China-based IPO candidates waiting to go public on the NYSE before 2010 comes to an end. Despite some of the recent problems with Chinese micro-caps trading in the U.S., the domestic appetite for anything tied to the Chinese market appears to be insatiable.

Some observers wonder if investor demand will be able to keep pace with the supply of IPOs coming down the pike. The China bears believe that, because there are so many new issues coming from that country, this must a sign that another bubble about to burst (just like the dot-com fiasco a decade ago).

The China bulls -- and I am one -- would say that most of these IPOs have been ready to go for the last couple of years but haven't been able to get out of the chute due to the general uncertainty in the markets. The majority of these companies stuck in the IPO pipeline are best-of-breed, technology-related names.

For any of these company's related to the Web, the broad macro trends (i.e., the rising-tide theory) are recited in their F-1 filings with the SEC by rote: only 400 million Chinese out of a total population of 1.3 billion are online and their overall purchasing power is still small, but rising quickly.

One Chinese company that held its IPO last week is Bitauto Holdings (BITA - commentary - Trade Now), the product category leader for Internet-based auto information and marketing in China. And, of course, China surpassed the U.S. last year as the top car-consuming country in the world.

Bitauto's shares debuted on the NYSE at $12 each, and they continue to hover around that point to this day. This company, which was brought public by Citi (C - commentary - Trade Now) and UBS Investment Bank (UBS - commentary - Trade Now) is not widely known in the U.S., so I'll provide some details here.

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