RealTime IT News

Sina.com Plans IPO, Targets Global Chinese

Following China.com's expected IPO on the NASDAQ next week, there are several other Chinese Web properties that are waiting in the wings. Backed by serious venture capital, Sina.com is one of the most significant players.

In May, Sina.com received US$25 million in financing from such heavy hitters as the Walden International Investment Group, Goldman Sachs, Flatiron Partners, Crystal Internet, Robertson Stevens, Chase Capital Partners and the Economic Development Bank of Singapore.

Although the original portal, SinaNet, began operation in early 1995 at Stanford University and had considerable success with the overseas Chinese community, the site had some difficulties in mainland China including being blocked periodically over three years.

The Beijing regime was not receptive to foreign ownership of websites and, according to press reports, deemed some of SinaNet's material politically sensitive.

By the middle of 1998, SinaNet had attracted the interest of some important investors but the portal's performance in mainland China was still in question.

Hurst Lin, Sina.com's co-founder and vice president for business development, told internetnews.com, "We had the investors in the middle of last year. These guys were about to make an investment but they were concerned about our China presence."

Venture capital group Walden then played a major role in SinaNet's transformation into Sina.com and one of China's leading Web sites.

According to Lin, Walden and Robertson Stevens had already invested in a Chinese company called Stone Rich Sight Information Technology Company Ltd (SRS) which produces the Rich Win Chinese Language software.

SRS had a decent Chinese language content site with news and financial information, and Walden brought the two companies together.

"We said this would be a great partnership," commented Lin. "We can't get into China and they can't get out of China."

"They were very local and we thought they would make a great partner," added Lin. "Walden giving the endorsement to SRS made us comfortable about a merger."

The companies merged in December last year to become Sina.com and hired the former vice president and general manager of Netscape's Integrated Applications division, Jim Sha, as CEO.

The merged company formed three portals for Chinese language markets in China, Taiwan, and the United States which now, according to Sina.com, have an aggregated base of 800,000 registered users and 150 million monthly page views.

Sina.com was recently ranked China's number one website by a poll conducted by www.consult and finished seventh in a January survey organized by CNNIC, China's version of InterNIC.

Concerning an IPO, Lin told internetnews.com, "It's part of our overall plan but there is no definitive plan for IPO."

In regard to China.com's upcoming IPO, Lin said, "We hope that China.com does well because the fact that AOL and China.com are working together validates the Chinese space."