This article was published on April 7, 2014

15 tech IPOs from Asia to watch out for in 2014

15 tech IPOs from Asia to watch out for in 2014
Jon Russell
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Jon Russell

Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on T Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on Twitter, Angel List, LinkedIn.

Box and Dropbox are among the startups creating interest in US tech IPOs right now, but there are plenty of companies from Asia bidding to join them and list publicly, both in and outside of the US.

A number of top Asian companies are already listed in the US — including Baidu, Sina and Tencent — but last year was a relatively quiet period for public listings from Asia. It’s all likely to change this year, however, and 2014 is shaping up to see a number of major firms from the East go public.

We’ve sifted through the field to bring you 15 contenders that are confirmed, probable or possible candidates for public listings this year. You can also view the whole article on one page.


Alibaba (China)

Alibaba shopping

Update: Alibaba’s filing was made May 6.

The standout IPO of the bunch, Alibaba recently confirmed long-running rumors that it has started the process to list on the New York Stock Exchange. Analysts estimate the firm could be worth over $150 billion.

The 15-year-old company was started by former English teacher Jack Ma. Today, it has more sales than eBay and Amazon combined, over 20,000 employees, and it accounts for 70 percent of all of the packages sent across China. Its business is divided across a number of online retail sites, including small business-focused, branded shopping site T-Mall, and consumer-to-consumer service Taobao.

Alibaba also operates PayPal-like affiliate Alipay, Aliyun — a cloud storage service and mobile operating system division — chat app Laiwang, and it has stakes in a range of Chinese tech services, including microblogging site Sina Weibo, browser-maker UCWeb, map firm Autonavi, and others.

Funding to date: $112 million

Estimated valuation: $150 billion

Weibo (China)


Another listing that has been confirmed is that of Sina Weibo, the site commonly referred to as ‘China’s Twitter.’ Sina is already listed on the NASDAQ, but it is spinning off Weibo, its most visible service with 129 million monthly active users, in a bid to raise up to $500 million.

Weibo’s listing could come at an advantageous time given a spate in recent deals involving companies whose businesses are primarily outside of the US — including Facebook’s $19 billion deal to buy WhatsApp, Rakuten’s $900 million acquisition of Viber and, most recently, Alibaba’s $215 million investment in chat app Tango.

US investors may be less aware of Weibo’s ongoing battle against chat apps in China, however. Though it remains a hugely popular service — 863,408 Weibo messages were posted during the first minute of Chinese New Year — a recent study suggested that users are less engaged with the service than ever in response to China’s efforts to minimize its influence as a free thought platform. There is also pressure from Tencent’s WeChat app, which counts 355 million active users and is thought to have lessened the average time Weibo users spend on the service.

Yet, despite these challenges, Weibo recently posted its first-ever quarterly profit thanks to ad sales growth.

Funding to date: $586 million

Estimated valuation: $4 billion (China)

Screenshot 2014-04-01 17.23.39

An e-commerce company that rivals Alibaba, announced its plan for a US IPO in January. The company estimates that it made a narrow loss of $8.1 million in 2013, but it did record $16.5 billion in revenue for the year despite rival Alibaba being the dominant online retailer.

JD says its active customer base has grown from 12.5 million in 2011, to 474 million in 2013, but things have developed even faster since it revealed its intention to list in the US. Tencent — Alibaba’s fierce rival — bought a 15 percent stake in JD for an estimated $215 million.

The Tencent deal will see JD will acquire Tencent’s existing e-commerce businesses — including e-commerce site (known as Yixun in China) — and will give it greater access to WeChat, the hugely popular messaging app in China. That deal has seen JD’s valuation double to $15.7 billion, as Tech In Asia notes.

Funding to date: $2.3 billion

Estimated valuation: $15.7 billion

Cheetah Mobile (China)


Chinese online games-maker Kingsoft is listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, but it is stepping into the US financial markets after Cheetah Mobile — its subsidiary covering Internet security and other services — filed for a public listing on the NYSE, which aims to raise $300 million.

Cheetah Mobile competes with Chinese tech upstart Qihoo, among others, which explains why it has the backing of many of the country’s top Internet firms. Tencent reportedly owns 18 percent of the company, while Baidu is one of its top advertisers within its mobile browser.

Cheetah Mobile makes money by serving content and advertising to users who download its free products, which include a browser and anti-virus software. It made a big push overseas, and its business is said to have over 100 million registered users who are based outside of China, according to Technode. The filing reports that Cheetah Mobile saw net income of $10.24 million in 2013, total revenue for the year was $123.87 million.

Funding to date: Unknown (spun out of Kingsoft Corporation in 2014)

Estimated valuation: Unknown

HomeShop18 (India)

Screenshot 2014-04-07 16.38.23

This Indian online and TV e-commerce company is part of the media group Network 18, and it is looking to raise $75 million through a public listing on the NYSE.

The company — which operates a popular home shopping channel, as well as a Web service — pulled in $51 million in sales over the last 12 months, and claims 8.9 million customers.

It isn’t as big as Flipkart and Snapdeal, but the six-year old company has repeat customer rates of 45 percent. While it benefits from increased smartphone penetration rates in India, which helps grow its potential userbase, its mainstream (TV) presence gives it reach among less tech savvy audiences too.

Funding to date: $44 million

Estimated valuation: Unknown

Tuniu (China)

Screenshot 2014-04-07 16.43.32

Tuniu is an online service that specializes in selling online packaged tour holidays. The company is focused on a China-based audience and includes both domestic and international trips. It claims to have 85 million registered users, and made almost $20 million in profit from revenue of $322 million in 2013.

The company is filing to list on the NASDAQ, and is aiming to raise $150 million from its IPO.

The eight-year-old site includes user reviews, and claims to have over 20,000 comments from travelers — a system which helps it attract potential bookings from customers.

Funding to date:$44 million

Estimated valuation: Unknown

Next page: Probable IPOs


Line (Japan)

line theme park

Rumors that the Japan-based messaging app would list publicly began last year, with various reports and estimations pegging the firm’s valuation between $10 billion and $30 billion.

Line has over 400 million users, but unlike many of its rivals, it doesn’t provide an indication of how many are active. Unlike WhatsApp, which monetizes only by charging users $1 per year, Line has multiple revenue streams which include sticker sales (which bring in over $10 million per month), in-app purchases for games (which are 60 percent of revenues), and direct marketing services for brands and celebrities.

Line chalked up $338 million in revenue from its messaging app in its most recent quarter of business, although it didn’t reveal its profit or loss figures. Line is growing faster than Twitter — thanks to 450 percent revenue growth over the past year — though the US microblogging firm posted higher revenue of $242.7 million.

Funding to date: None

Estimated valuation: $10-30 billion

Chukong Technologies (China)


The game development firm from China has been tipped to follow Alibaba, Weibo and and list in the US. Bloomberg reports it could raise as much as $150 million from the public market Stateside.

Chukong Technologies‘ most successful game is arguably Fishing Joy, which has received more than 200 million downloads, but it does more than just make games. The company — which has offices in the US, Japan and Beijing — has a range of other businesses, including an ad network and its CocoaChina developer community.

The firm has raised more than $80 million in funding, and counts Northern Light Ventures and Sequoia among its investors.

Funding to date: $80 million

Estimated valuation: Unknown

Kakao Talk (South Korea)

TO GO WITH AFP STORY "SKorea-technology-

Another non-Chinese company and the second mobile messaging service, Kakao is likely to undertake a public listing, the only question is timing. Following much speculation, the company said it has set a deadline of May 2015 to go public.

Kakao Talk is considerably smaller than WhatsApp, Line and WeChat. It is estimated to 150 million registered users, but it does not disclose how many are active. Kakao Talk is the leading messaging app in Korea, where it is said to be installed on over 90 percent of smartphones and its games platform is hugely popular too.

Despite struggling to replicate its success outside of Korea, Kakao Talk has posted impressive revenue figures. The company made its first annual profit — $58 million in 2013 — and its earnings grew ten-fold in the space of a year. A recent $10 million investment valued the company at $2.4 billion.

Funding to date: $73 million

Estimated valuation: $2.4 billion

Jumei (China)

Screenshot 2014-04-07 17.02.02

China’s Jumei is another fashion-focused online retailer. The Wall Street Journal reports that it is considering a US-based IPO to raise $600 million at a valuation that is north of $3 billion.

Like Alibaba and JD, Jumei works with small businesses to offer an online mall-like shopping experience to customers, who can buy products from brand names like Dior and Lancome. The company uses regular Web commerce, flash sales and mobile apps to reach consumers.

The company is said to have made $400 million in revenue in 2012. Founder and CEO Leo Chen, a Stanford MBA graduate, estimates that Jumei’s revenue passed $1 billion in 2013.

Funding to date: $20 million (estimated)

Estimated valuation: $3 billion

Next page: Possible IPOs


Zalora (Southeast Asia)


The Rocket Internet-backed e-commerce site sells fashion products and clothing across eight markets in Southeast Asia, while it covers New Zealand and Australia via a separate site, The Icon.

The two-year-old company has raised more than $300 million from private investors, but a recent job ad indicates that it is looking into a potential IPO in the US.

This switch is indicative of Rocket Internet’s wider e-commerce plans. As I wrote in February, many still believe the company is a ‘clone factory’ but Zalora is one of many well-funded e-commerce business that Rocket Internet runs in emerging markets — uniting these brands more closely, perhaps even as a single entity, could turn them into a global giant.

Funding to date: More than $300 million (estimated)

Estimated valuation: Unknown

WeChat (China)


Tencent’s WeChat messaging is the second largest player in the chat app space — with 355 million monthly users — and it is utterly dominant in China.

A potential IPO in Singapore was rumored last year, and it remains entirely possible that Tencent might look to capitalize on the interest in messaging apps by spinning WeChat out and listing it publicly in the US, Singapore, Hong Kong or elsewhere.

That said, Tencent is not short of money — the company posted fourth quarter net income of $630 million on revenue of $2.74 billion — although any move to make WeChat independent would likely be aimed at playing down its Chinese background and links to the country. WeChat was previously accused of blocking out ‘sensitive’ Chinese terms and, in a market that is increasingly competitive, it can’t afford to have potential overseas users worrying about their privacy within the app.

Funding to date: None (Owned by Tencent)

Estimated valuation: $60 billion

UCWeb (China)


The Chinese browser maker announced 500 million active users per quarter last month, and it claims impressive (and dominant) mobile market share in both China and India.

The company hasn’t been shy about its ambition to strike it big in the US. UCWeb has an office in Sunnyvale, and it talked about a potential listing last year. Its most recent data claimed strong growth in the North America, although it did not reveal raw user figures for the country.

Alibaba is UCWeb’s most prominent investor — Alibaba founder Jack Ma sits on the UCWeb board — so it is entirely plausible that Alibaba may use lessons from its upcoming listing to help UCWeb follow suit in the US. Raising funds could help the company increase its local/global push into more markets.

Funding to date: Not disclosed

Estimated valuation: Unknown

Xiaomi (China)

xiaomi 9

Xiaomi is fast-growing from a smartphone-making upstart into a Chinese tech giant. The company sold 19 million smartphones in 2012 — a 160 percent year-on-year increase — but now it is forecasting that the figure could hit 100 million in 2015, as it continues to broaden its sales efforts into new markets.

The company offers two families of devices — its higher-spec Mi range starts from $327, while its affordable Redmi phones are priced from $130 — and it uses an online sales model to reach consumers. Devices are typically sold in batches of limited numbers, meaning that they often sell-out quickly, which serves to make them more desirable.

Xiaomi began sales outside of Greater China for the first time when it launched in Singapore in February, and it is aiming to expand across Southeast Asia and into India before venturing any further. The price points could make Xiaomi devices very compelling in the West, but there will be cultural and industry issues to navigate.

Funding to date: Over $350 million (vale of most recent round was not disclosed)

Estimated Valuation: $10 billion

Snapdeal (India)

Screenshot 2014-04-07 17.22.08

Flipkart is often seen as being India’s answer to Amazon, but e-commerce firm Snapdeal has been quietly building itself as a credible competitor. EBay has invested more than $180 million in the company, and the relationship is seen as one that could eventually lead to a full on acquisition — Amazon entered India in 2013.

Snapdeal is also looking to the public markets in the US. Founder and CEO Kunal Bahl told Venture Beat earlier this year that the company could list in the US within the next 12-24 months, though “it could be sooner.”

Snapdeal is estimated to have made $500 million in revenue during 2013, and Bahl says that the figure is expected to double in 2014.

Funding to date: $202 million

Estimated valuation: Unknown

Image credits: crystal51/Shutterstock (feature image), MIKE CLARKE/AFP/Getty Images, screenshot, Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images, Villiers Steyn/Shutterstock, screenshot, screenshot, Line, screenshot, PARK JI-HWAN/AFP/Getty Images, screenshot, Zalora, WeChat, Julien GONG Min/Flickr, Hugo Barra, screenshot

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