This year-end flurry of listings would mark a positive end to what has otherwise been a miserable year for US-listed Chinese firms. This group of companies was once a darling of investors who were keen to buy into the China growth story; but sentiment turned sharply negative starting in spring of 2011 when a series of accounting scandals emerged at names like Longtop Financial and Sino-Forest. Several companies tried to make US IPOs earlier this year, including names like China Auto and Shanda Cloudary, only to scrap their offerings due to dismal investor sentiment.
The only major company to make an IPO this year has been discount online retailer Vipshop (NYSE: VIPS), which listed its shares in March, only to see them plummet by more than 30 per cent in their first few weeks of trading. But the company's stock has come roaring back since September, and its shares now trade at around $10, or more than 50 per cent above their IPO price. Vipshop's sudden reversal must be all the more encouraging for other Chinese IPO candidates because the company is still losing money, although its net loss is rapidly shrinking.
But one thing that is clear is that the company is operating in an increasingly competitive online travel services space, where it is competing with much older rivals like Ctrip (Nasdaq: CTRP) and eLong (Nasdaq: LONG), as well as newer start-up services from companies like e-commerce giant Jingdong Mall. Growing competition is starting to show up in companies' bottom lines, with Ctrip reporting shrinking margins and profits in its latest quarter and warning of more to come.
Bottom line: Online travel site Qunar has become the latest Chinese firm to show interest in a New York IPO by year-end, perhaps marking the end to the winter for US-listed Chinese stocks.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own. To read more commentaries from Doug Young, click on youngchinabiz.com