Wednesday, April 20, 2011

If China Stocks Are Being Revalued, Why Not Yahoo!?

By Eric Jackson04/20/11 - 08:00 AM EDT

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- China Internet stocks are on fire. The unstoppable SINA(SINA_) is now up 106% year-to-date. SOHU(SOHU_) is up 56%. Baidu(BIDU_) is up 53%. Even new IPO Youku (YOKU_) is up 94% year-to-date.

We are now starting to see new Chinese companies rushing to list their stocks on the U.S. exchanges.Dangdang(DANG_) has managed to hold a price at a big premium to its December IPO. Qihoo 360(QIHU_) is another high-flying IPO from last month. RenRen(RENN), the "Facebook of China," is planning to list next month.

The more these relatively smaller stocks go up, the more it seems that the bigger Chinese portal names keep going up. Look at Sina's performance in the last two weeks alone for evidence of that.

China observer and investor Bill Bishop said on Tuesday that he thinks there is a revaluation going on in the Chinese Internet sector:

Most U.S.-Listed Chinese Internet stocks are soaring, with some up 10%+ Monday, and some up 30% or more in a matter of weeks. Many of these firms, like Baidu and Sina, have great businesses and massive growth prospects, but the surge seems to be about more than just fundamentals.

Are investors in relative valuation mode, believing that because immature firms like Youku (6.7B market cap), Qihoo (3.7B) and RenRen (planned IPO valuation is $4B+) are so richly valued, then Sina, Baidu, Sohu, Shanda et al are dramatically undervalued on a relative basis?

There is logic to that argument, and it can sustain high valuations for a while, especially given the great wall of money that is both being reallocated to China by Western funds and is sitting in Chinese hands looking for speculative opportunities.

I agree with his logic. I think this revaluation is going on.

And I agree with him that this is not a bubble. It could grow into one -- but we have a long way to go. In "dot com" era terms, I would characterize the current Chinese tech sector as being in the equivalent of the fall of 1995. Netscape went public that year in August. As its price held up for the first few weeks after, it made people reconceptualize the value of tech.Yahoo!(YHOO_) went public in April 1996. And, after that, the race was on for tech billions.

But it would not be for another 3.5 years after Yahoo!'s IPO that the "dot com" bubble burst.

I think we still have another four years of growth ahead of us in the Chinese tech world. Buckle up: it's going to be a fun ride.

But, here's a question for you: If there is a revaluation going on in the Chinese Internet world, it has so far eluded the biggest Chinese Web company in the world (at least, as I see the Chinese Web world playing out over the next five years).

Tencent and Baidu may be the big dogs today with $50 billion market capitalization each. And they will likely triple in size over the next five years, as the wealth of Chinese people increases and Internet penetration doubles or triples from its current levels.


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