Archive for Alibaba

Articles of the Day

Posted in Digital Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 8, 2008 by Dave Liu

Blinkx Drops Bid For Search Marketing Firm Miva — Online video search firm Blinkx, which is publicly traded on the AIM market, has dropped its public bid to acquire pay-per-click ad network MIVA. The London- and San Francisco-based Blinkx had offered $1.20 per share, valuing Miva at $41.13 million, a 54 percent premium over its early August stock price…Miva board rejected it outright then, saying the bid wasn’t up to the mark. This morning, in a statement, Blinkx explained its decision to withdraw: “The large premium blinkx offered in our initial proposal is even more significant today in light of MIVA’s second quarter earnings miss, subsequent downward revision of annual guidance, and public disclosure related to restructuring of the Media EU business. By choosing not to engage in substantive discussions in any material respect and an agreement with blinkx, MIVA Board and management in our view have failed to give due consideration to a transaction that had a uniquely attractive opportunity for MIVA shareholders, particularly in light of several challenges MIVA faces in the near term.”

AOL-Yahoo Merger Details Emerge; Deal Could Happen This Month — Yahoo is continuing its marathon merger discussions with AOL, sources close to the negotiations have whispered to us, and a deal could happen as early as this month. Is this just a rehash of the reported discussions in February and then again in April? Yes and no. It’s clear that AOL’s parent company, Time Warner, wants this deal more than ever. What isn’t clear is whether AOL’s assets will fix any of Yahoo’s problems. The deal structure that is currently being discussed is Yahoo’s acquisition of AOL (content, services and advertising), minus their subscription dial up business. That plus a couple of billion dollars in cash from Time Warner gets them approximately a third of the combined entity. Time Warner’s AOL headache is gone, and they have a stake in the world’s most valuable chess piece in the Google/Microsoft search and advertising war.

Viacom-YouTube Update: VCs Will Have To File With Court On Decisions To Back YouTube, Sell To Google — YouTube’s VC backers are being asked to explain to a federal court why they invested in the video venture—and why they sold to Google. As part of the $1 billion lawsuit Viacom (NYSE: VIA) filed against YouTube and Google in early 2007, MarketWatch reports, Viacom wants documents from Sequoia Capital, Artis Capital Management and TriplePoint Capital “related to the firms’ “actual and potential” investment in YouTube, Google’s acquisition of the startup and a “proposed indemnification for copyright infringement relating to this merger.” The documents are due Oct. 27, although there have been a lot of delays in this case all along so who knows. The companies reaped significant rewards in Google stock in the $1.65 billion 2006 sale: Sequoia, $504 million; Artis, $83 million; TriplePoint, $6.4 million. MKTW sees the notion of having VCs explain themselves as unusual but Google senior litigation counsel Catherine Lacavera says it is “not out of the ordinary.”

Google Begins Wider Testing In-Game AdSense System — Google is hoping to take advantage of in-game ads’ strong growth with its new AdSense for Games system, the company announced in a post on its blog. Citing comScore data, Google says over 25 percent of web users play online games every week, representing over 200 million global users. Google began offering the system on a limited basis back in November. It started off using pre-roll and mid-roll inserts with gaming startup Bunchball Games. With this wider beta test, AdSense for Games will let marketers place video ads, image ads, or text ads within developers’ games. The system is based on technology from Adscape, which Google bought for $23 million in February 2007.The AdWords sales team will sell company’s in-game ad placements directly to advertisers. Google is also promising text and image ads that are targeted by demo and location. To be eligible for the program, publishers must have a minimum of 500,000 game plays and have 80 percent of their traffic from the U.S. or the U.K.

Yahoo’s Yang May Have Missed Sales Opportunity In Asia — Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang has made clear his intention to sell off Asian assets such as Alibaba.com Corp. and Gmarket Inc. But thanks to the global financial crisis, it looks like he may have missed his chance to get top dollar. Such holdings have shrunk about $2.2 billion–that’s 23%–since Yahoo assessed them in July. The value of the holdings has been depressed thanks to investor fears that the deepening crisis will hurt the Internet advertising market. And even if a buyer were interested at this point, raising the capital to make the purchase would likely prove difficult now that banks are hoarding cash.

IAC/InterActiveCorp CEO Acknowledges Business Is Being Scrutinized For Divestments; Declines To Name Potential Disposals — IAC/InterActiveCorp boss Barry Diller declined to name potential disposals being considered by the listed Internet conglomerate. In the course of a Wall Street Journal interview, Diller was asked to identify areas of operation which might be divested; he replied that the decision had not yet been made so he would not be specific. He added that the New York-based group’s businesses were being analyzed in relation to size and markets to see if they were worth bothering with, the report said. When asked whether the credit crunch might hamper any efforts to sell, Diller said Internet companies had not so far suffered too much but added that it was possible the sector might freeze in the future. IAC/InterActiveCorp was broken up by Diller several weeks ago in a move towards streamlining the company, the report noted. It added that Diller said any acquisitions made with the proceeds of the USD 1.3bn break-up are most likely to be in the Internet advertising sphere with which IAC is familiar. Source: WSJ.

Baidu: “We’ve Seen This Movie Before”

Posted in China, Deals, Digital Media, Investment Banking, Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2005 by Dave Liu

I was interviewed for the following article which was written by Steve Rosenbush and published by Business Week on August 11, 2005.

Investors hope it’ll be another Google, says China tech banking expert David Liu. But he warns that it’s “hard to pick winners in tech” The initial public offering of Baidu (BIDU ), the Chinese Internet search company, shattered records on Aug. 4. It was the most successful Nasdaq IPO in five years, rising from $27 to $154. While the stock price has settled back at $91, the company has recast the perception of the Chinese Internet market. Valuations of Internet companies, and search companies in particular, are on the rise.

Now, big players from the U.S. are pouring into the Chinese market. Google (GOOG ) has a stake in Baidu. Yahoo! (YHOO ) is said to be in talks with e-commerce site Alibaba, eBay (EBAY ) has acquired Eachnet, and MSN has its own operations in China (see BW Online, 8/11/05, “There’s More Where Baidu Came From”).

David Liu, managing director of China tech banking at Jefferies & Co., expects valuations to keep rising in the wake of the Baidu IPO. He spoke about the Chinese tech market with BusinessWeek Online Senior Writer Steve Rosenbush. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Q: How would you characterize Baidu’s valuation?

A: By any conventional standards, the valuation looks very high. Its valuation is higher than Yahoo, Google, or eBay. To justify this valuation, Baidu needs to grow faster than Google.

Q: Why did Baidu’s value reach its current level?

A: The valuation of Baidu was driven by a “perfect storm” of investment conditions. There haven’t been that many IPOs, and the market is starved for good growth ideas.

Lots of investors have been kicking themselves because they didn’t buy Google when it was in the 80s. It’s 300 now. We’re also seeing rapid growth of the China market. It’s a very large opportunity. It’s the second largest Internet market in the world, and over the next two years, pundits believe, it will become the largest Internet market in the world.

The valuation of Baidu was also driven by the rapid growth of online advertising and revenues related to search. And the nice thing about Baidu is we’ve seen this movie before — in the U.S. Everyone believes the same movie is going to play out in China and that Baidu will do as well as Google.

Q: But is the current valuation justified?

A: The company hasn’t disclosed forward-looking revenue numbers. The analysts who worked on the deal are in a quiet period, and we won’t see anything from them until 40 days after the IPO, or early September. Those reports will show their view on Baidu’s projections. Once the numbers come out, we can figure out whether the company’s projected growth justifies its current valuation.

Q: How will the Baidu valuation alter the outlook for M&A and IPOs in China?

A: There’s no doubt the Baidu IPO will affect companies that are in a related space, like Alibaba. Any Chinese search company today is going to look at the Baidu situation and start thinking more about launching an IPO than pursuing an M&A.

Baidu will have an effect on the broader market, too. There are only 30 China-based tech companies on the Nasdaq. That’s a very small sample, so every single deal has a meaningful impact on expectations. If you’re a China-based tech company looking to sell or go public, an event of this magnitude heavily skews that sample and what you think the value of your company is. In my opinion, the Baidu IPO pushes valuations beyond the point where many M&A deals can get done.

Baidu clearly affects companies with one degree of separation — those that are rivals of Baidu. And it affects the valuation of Internet companies, or companies with two degrees of separation. They will argue that they make their money by monetizing traffic, just like Baidu.

Tech companies, which have three degrees of separation, will argue that they’re tech market leaders, just like Baidu and deserve a similar valuation. And companies with a fourth degree of separation, which operate beyond the tech market, will argue that they deserve a valuation comparable to Baidu, too. But I think these arguments lose credibility unless the company is a search company or an Internet company.

Q: Can you be more specific about how Baidu will change the outlook for M&A and IPOs in China?

A: Baidu will have the biggest impact on search companies like Sina and Zhongsou, which compete directly with Baidu. It also may have an effect on companies like Alibaba, the b2b site. While Alibaba may be in talks with Yahoo, it’s unlikely to sell out entirely. It may sell a piece to Yahoo, then go public, just as job site eLong sold a piece to Barry Diller’s IAC/Interactive before it went public. [eLong was acquired by Interactive and is now part of spinoff Expedia.]

We’ll see more two track deals like this. M&A is difficult in any market growing this fast because the seller thinks it’s going to keep growing like crazy, and the buyer thinks expectations are too high.

Other companies on the cusp of M&A or IPO include China HR, the job site. Rival job site 51job (JOBS) went public last year. It was the second-best performing IPO on the Nasdaq. Another job site, Zhaopim, may also be close to IPO or deal. The same is true for Soufum, the real estate site. But once you get beyond search and Internet sectors, the influence of the Baidu IPO really starts to wane.

Q: Is there a danger that an M&A/IPO bubble is forming in the China market?

A: Valuations are based on a company’s future growth. If these companies perform well, the valuations will be justified. If they don’t, valuations will come down. That’s why quarterly performance is so important. These kinds of businesses are so new in China.

But there will be a new Google, a new Yahoo, and a new Microsoft that comes out of China. And these market leaders will justify their valuations. But these companies are relatively small, and it’s hard to pick which ones will be winners. That’s why investors get paid so much money. It’s particularly hard to pick winners in tech, which tends to be a winner take all market.

Q: Will Baidu be a winner?

A: It has the lead right now, but someone else could come along. Google wasn’t the first search company in the U.S., or even the second or the third. And most of those early leaders aren’t around today.

There’s More Where Baidu Came From

Posted in China, Deals, Digital Media, Investment Banking, Media, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2005 by Dave Liu

I was interviewed for the following article which was written by Brian Bremner and Justin Hibbard and published by Business Week on August 11, 2005.

The search engine’s runaway stock may spur Chinese Net IPOs — and rein in M&A as companies’ ideas of their own valuation soar How do you say feeding frenzy in Chinese? The moon shot of an initial public offering by Chinese Internet search engine Baidu.com (BIDU ) — whose $27-a-share launch on Aug. 4 jumped fivefold, to $154, before settling back to around $90 — shattered a five-year record for the best debut on the Nasdaq. It tapped into a deep investor hunger for the next Google (GOOG ) — which has seen its shares triple in the past year — and a desire to profit from the Internet in China, where some 100 million people now go online.

So will Baidu’s success unleash a flood of China Net IPOs? There’s good reason for excitement. Broadband subscribers in China last year more than doubled, to 43 million, and Beijing technology research firm BDA China is forecasting the online advertising market, worth $208 million in 2004, will expand to nearly $1 billion by 2009.

IPO INSPIRATION

Although the stampede into Baidu is partly based on the search engine’s similarity to Google, it also reflects optimism about that potential growth. That’s why many analysts are bullish on Chinese Internet companies. “We will see an expansion of the valuations. Baidu helped that,” says Piper Jaffray analyst Safa Rashtchy.

Indeed, some Chinese tech companies that have been considering a flotation might now jump in. “Given the success of Baidu, I’m sure some other Google look-alikes will be inspired to [do an] IPO,” says Khiem Do, head of Asian equities at Baring Asset Management.

At the same time, Baidu’s offering could put a damper on a wave of mergers and acquisitions among Chinese Net companies that had been picking up. Yahoo! last year paid $120 million for control of Beijing 3721 Technology Co., and it now appears to be close to a $1 billion deal to buy a one-third stake in Alibaba.com, an online marketplace for small and midsize Chinese companies.

“CROWD PSYCHOLOGY”

And in February online game pioneer Shanda Interactive Entertainment bought a 19% stake in portal Sina.com. After Baidu’s performance, however, Chinese Net entrepreneurs may believe their companies are worth more than potential acquirers are willing to pay. “The Baidu IPO pushes valuations beyond the point where many M&A deals can get done,” says David Liu, a managing director at investment bank Jefferies & Co. (see BW Online, 8/11/05, “Baidu: “We’ve Seen This Movie Before””).

All this doesn’t mean Baidu truly warrants its own sky-high valuation. Baidu, co-founded five years ago by former Infoseek engineer Robin Yanhong Li, is the mainland’s No.1 search engine, with 45% of the market. But the company earned just $1.45 million on $14 million in sales in 2004. At $90 per share, Baidu’s market capitalization is nearly $3 billion — which values it at more than 1,800 times 12-month trailing earnings, compared with price-earnings ratios of 70 or so for Google and Yahoo.

And Baidu faces intense competition. Its rivals include well-heeled U.S. search providers such as Google (which owns 2.6% of Baidu), smaller Chinese search sites, e-commerce players like Alibaba, and portals Netease, Sina, and Sohu. “We are in the realm of crowd psychology,” says Duncan Clark, BDA’s managing director.

WHO GETS BITTEN?

Investors might also note that the record of Chinese Net stocks has been mixed. Of the 10 Chinese tech companies that went public last year, 7 are trading below their offering price. Online 51job Inc., which went public at $14 in September, 2004, zoomed to $55 before falling to its current $13.

The one exception: Shanda Interactive, the best-performing stock on the Nasdaq last year. It went public in May, 2004, at $11 and now trades at $37.50, up 241%. Although Baidu’s IPO boosted some of the laggards, they quickly fell back to where they were before the IPO. In a feeding frenzy, it seems, someone always gets bitten.