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Why Would Any Investor Avoid China?

Stocks in this article: BIDU SINA SOHU AAPL YHOO RINO CCME

There are other large Chinese companies that have been taken public by the likes of Goldman Sachs (GS), Morgan Stanley (MS) and Credit Suisse (CS). Last week, Qihoo 360 (QIHU) closed 135% above its IPO offer price on its first day. The company was underwritten by UBS (UBS) and Citigroup (C).

I have been more drawn to China's technology and Web companies. Only about a third of Chinese people are online today, compared with almost all Americans. The Chinese are also seeing their incomes rise substantially, and there is a growing shift of advertising dollars from TV to the Web over the next five years.

We only think of China's headline GDP growing 10% annually. However, in certain industries, such as tech and the Web, growth rates are much higher. Credit Suisse recently predicted that China's e-commerce market would grow 500% in the next five years.

If you listened to the China bears, you missed out on Sina (SINA) growing 62% in the first quarter, thanks to the torrid growth of Weibo. You also missed out on a 44% gain in the quarter for Baidu (BIDU) and a 43% bump in big Chinese portal Sohu (SOHU), which saw its online advertising soar.

It's not always shooting fish in a barrel. The two big December IPOs had mixed returns in the first quarter. Dangdang (DANG) fell 25%. Youku (YOKU), on the other hand, was up 41%. (I'm currently short on the company because it's gotten way ahead of itself.)

And do you remember Sky Mobi Limited (MOBI)? This smaller-cap company did an IPO right after Dangdang and Youku in December. The stock price fell rapidly, prompting many to point to it as an example of a broken IPO and how you have to be careful buying Chinese companies. Well, Sky Mobi's first-quarter return was 141%.

A growing China also helps a lot of U.S. companies. Yum Brands (YUM) has made KFC the biggest foreign restaurant in China today. Apple (AAPL) is going to announce blowout earnings from China in the next two years, as the maker of the iPad expands from four to 25 stores in that country. And, even Yahoo (YHOO) will be along for a fabulous ride when its 40% stakes in Taobao and Alipay are realized. Those companies likely will be the biggest IPOs from China in the past 10 years (although neither company has announced plans yet).

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