SAN FRANCISCO -- If you missed out on Baidu.com (BIDU) - Get Report, the "Chinese Google (GOOG) - Get Report," before its run-up, keep your eye on the IPO market. There are plenty of other koi in the sea.
Just look at Friday's
New York Stock Exchange
China Digital TV
, which priced at $16 and promptly doubled by midmorning. The company makes software and access cards for customers of pay cable, satellite and terrestrial television service operators in China.
While American Depositary Receipts on Chinese companies represent a higher risk, that goes unacknowledged by the market, says MorningNotes' Ben Holmes. ADRs often enjoy unusual upside, especially during the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter in the IPO market is the "mark-up game," Holmes says. Buyers hold on to new issues that rise, at least until 2008, to show the gains on their year-end results. Providing, of course, that they
A look at a few 2006 IPOs is instructive.
was offered at $13.50 on Sept. 26, 2006 and ended up 30% its first trading day. The stock closed Thursday at $43.05.
But then there's
( SOLF), which went out at $12.50 on Dec. 20, 2006 and plunged 16.9% during its first trading day to close at $10.39. It closed Thursday at $12.80.
Solarfun's roller coaster ride demonstrates the risks that Chinese ADRs pose to investors. During the past year, the stock has ranged from $8.22 to $17.69, and is stagnant at 30 cents above its offer price.
But for every sob story, there's a first-comer.
In each sector, the first Chinese firm to market has the edge, says Holmes. First-movers tend to fare better than late-comers and also-rans.
One such first-mover is
. The maker of solar cells went public for $15 a share back in February. Its lockup period enables insiders to sell their shares in a secondary offering scheduled to trade Oct. 12 at a higher premium of $39.31. But the stock itself is even higher -- up 4.3% Friday to $43.26.
The company says it has nailed down a source of silicon wafers, which are in tight demand, that will enable it to meet production needs at least through early 2008.
Chinese IPOs tend to come to market very quickly, usually within days or weeks of their initial filings, because they're not subject to Sarbanes-Oxley, Holmes said.
And there's the rub: Many Chinese ADRs carry higher risks because their financials don't go through the same vetting process as American companies.
Those risks aren't inherent to ADRs, Holmes says, just those representing companies where the regulatory environment is less rigorous about accurate disclosure. Some Chinese prospectuses warn that accounting methods at these companies are deficient, making the reliability of earnings reports more than a little dicey.
But for investors sitting on the sidelines envying the early buyers in Baidu, which tripled in value in just over two years, a couple of Chinese stocks coming to market have potential.
The real gem right now is China Digital, which despite doubling in Friday's debut has room for growth. The company issued 12 million shares, or 21.6% of the firm. It had installed products at 130 pay-TV operators in 26 provinces as of June 30, according to the company. China Digital claims it had 44% market share within China for the first half of the year.
MorningNotes rates China Digital TV an A+, its second-highest rating. "We like everything about this deal: its near vertical revenue growth, highly scalable business model and stunning year-over-year earnings growth," the service said in a note to investors recently.
China's network TV operators are in the early stages of switching to digital transmission. The government has given them until 2015 to complete the transition. "We are a primary beneficiary of this transition," China Digital says, because its conditional access software is a key component of pay-television platforms.
China Digital's revenue for the first half of calendar 2007 was $21.7 million, up 108% year over year, according to the company. Net income for the period was $12.2 million, or 26 cents a share, vs. $3.4 million, or 8 cents, for the same period of 2006.
The IPO deal was oversubscribed by multiple times and came to market quickly -- less than a month after its initial filing, according to MorningNotes.
Helping the stock pick up momentum was its going public on a U.S. exchange during a national holiday week when China's exchanges were closed, said MorningNotes analyst William Wilson. This week, Chinese ADRs "have been popping," Wilson says.
In coming weeks, look for an IPO of ADRs by
Longtop Financial Technologies
, which filed its initial registration statement Monday for a listing on the NYSE. Known in China as Xiamen Longtop System, the company sells software to banks.
A filing by underwriter Goldman Sachs indicates Longtop is on a healthy growth track. Its top line is up 43.4% year over year for the first half of 2007. The company had $43.2 million in revenue in 2006, and earned 33 cents a share. In the first half of the calendar year, revenue was $24.8 million, or 21 cents a share, vs. $17.3 million for the same period of 2006, when EPS was 2 cents.
Longtop hasn't disclosed the number of shares to be issued or the expected price range.