Weibo, 'The Chinese Twitter,' Filed An IPO  --  Here's A Guide To Its Finances

WeiboWeiboFamous Weibo users include UK prime minister David Cameron.

Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, filed for an IPO yesterday. A look inside its F-1 disclosure shows that it is strikingly similar to Twitter in terms of its user base but is much smaller as a business.

Here are some highlights:

  • Ownership: Weibo is owned and controlled by Sina Corp. which has 77% of the shares. Alibaba group, a Chinese e-commerce company, invested $US585.8 million and owns 18% of the company, with an option to increase its stake to 30%. (Yahoo owns 24% of Alibaba.)
  • Revenues in 2013: $US188 million, up 185%. (Twitter by contrast got $US665 million in the same period.)
  • Net loss in 2013: $US38 million (its net loss is declining).
  • 129 million monthly active users. (Twitter has 241 million MAUs.) Users generate 2.8 billion feeds a month. Interestingly, Weibo is much smaller than previously thought. It’s less of a threat to Twitter.
  • 70% of Weibo users are on mobile devices.
  • Revenue per user is roughly $US1.45. (Twitter’s RPU is roughly $US1.49.)
  • Weibo’s Alibaba alliance will bring it $US380 million in revenues through 2015.
  • Weibo is holding $US246 million in cash on its balance sheet.
  • Weibo can be shut down by the Chinese government any time if it “impairs the national dignity of China.”
  • Weibo must also register its encryption software with the Chinese government.
  • The company is officially registered in the Cayman Islands in order to avoid lawsuits.

Here’s Weibo’s income statement (click to enlarge):

Historic user growth:

Weibo daily user activity:

The filing also has some useful information on the web in China generally. Here is a chart of internet penetration in China. You can see how much room Weibo has to grow — the Chinese population is 1.3 billion.

This chart shows internet ad spending in China, which is now up to $US15 billion a year.

Here’s an example of how Weibo posts go viral. A passenger on the jet that crashed in San Francisco last year uploaded some of the first pictures to Weibo. Chinese TV news stations used the pictures in their reporting.

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