China’s Weibo microblogging service has changed the country’s social landscape, offering Chinese citizens an alternative to government-operated media properties.
Now its owner, Sina Corp., is reportedly planning to take Weibo public in the U.S..
Sina is aiming to raise around $500 million in an initial public offering of the Weibo service, according to the Financial Times, which first reported Sina’s plans to spin off the company through a public offering. Other publications, including the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, have since corroborated the original report.
Although Sina Weibo remains immensely popular in China with more than 60 million daily active users, competing services like Tencent’s WeChat pose a credible threat to the company. Sina has stated that people spending time on instant messaging app WeChat instead of Weibo.
Sina has also been slow to monetize Weibo. The company reported $43.7 million in advertising revenue from Weibo in the third quarter, but that’s less than a quarter of Sina’s $184.6 million net revenue during that period. Sina chief executive Charles Chao said Weibo was nearing “the break-even line” during a November earnings call.
Major Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba, a major Weibo investor, is helping the service cross that line. It features ads from its merchants on the platform and recently integrated its Alipay payments service into Weibo.
Alibaba acquired an 18 percent stake in Sina Weibo for $586 million last year. It may increase its ownership stake if an IPO occurs.
Sina has reportedly tapped Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs to handle the U.S. listing.
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