VisionChina gets US$108m in cool market

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 December, 2007, 12:00am

VisionChina Media, an outdoor mainland advertising firm, has raised US$108 million in an initial public offering on the Nasdaq Stock Market, despite a lukewarm response.

The company offered its shares at US$8, below its earlier forecast of US$9.50 to US$11.50 per share. The stock closed unchanged on its debut last Thursday.

'Market sentiment has changed,' said one investor. 'The offering was only about two times covered as opposed to some earlier offerings that were 10 to 20 times covered.'

VisionChina offer was also priced rather high, the investor added.

By contrast, AirMedia Group raised US$176 million in proceeds after offering its share at US$15. AirMedia closed at US$19.76 last Friday on the Nasdaq.

VisionChina runs a network of LED flat panels displaying advertisements on mass transport systems, mainly buses.

Its network of about 33,000 flat panel displays covers 14 cities on the mainland.

Towona Mobile Digital and Bus Online are its main competitors.

VisionChina made a loss of US$5.6 million on revenue of US$3.8 million last year.

For the first nine months this year, it recorded a loss of US$927,428, despite revenue rising to US$17.3 million.

'VisionChina mainly operates on buses. It has one subway line - Beijing. But the contract is only for 18 months, much shorter than the four- to 12-year terms it gets for buses,' the investor said.

The main subway play is Shanghai-based Digital Media Group.

Digital Media covers subway trains in seven cities, including the Airport Express in Hong Kong. The company is also seeking an initial public offering, a source said.

Using flat panel displays to play advertisements in public areas has been a rising trend on the mainland. The largest company in the sector is Focus Media Holding, which recorded revenue in the third quarter of US$151 million.

The company's share price has appreciated more than five times since it listed on Nasdaq in July 2005.

Next in the sector to be listed is CGEN Digital Media, which filed an application with the Securities and Exchange Commission on November 14.

It expects to sell about 9.2 million shares at between US$13 and US$15 each.

CGEN operates in 534 stores - including Carrefour, Century Mart, Wal-Mart and Wu-Mart - across 65 mainland cities.

For the six months to June, CGEN reported earnings of US$7.2 million on revenue of US$18.7 million.

Tough sell

Offer only covered about two times against 10-20 times in previous listings

Last year, outdoor advertiser VisionChina recorded revenue of US$3.8 million, but made a loss of, in US$: $5.6m

Focus Media is the largest company in the sector and in the third quarter recorded revenues of, in US$: $151m