Weibo Lowers Its IPO Sights

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The company that is generally described as the Twitter of China, Weibo, filed for a U.S. initial public offering (IPO) in mid-March and said it was seeking to raise $500 million. Most analysts thought the company was really seeking $700 million at a valuation around $7 billion. Those numbers now appear to be in the rear-view mirror.

On Friday Weibo registered to sell 20 million American Depositary Shares (ADSes) in a price range of $17 to $19 a share, or a maximum of $437 million. One ADS is equal to one Class A ordinary share. Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse are lead underwriters for the IPO. The underwriters have a 30-day option on an additional 3 million ADSes.

The majority owner of Weibo is Sina Corp. (NASDAQ: SINA), which will continue to hold about 57% of Weibo’s outstanding ordinary shares and 80% of the Class B shares following the IPO. The share class values are the same, but Class B shares get 3 votes per share compared with one vote per share for Class A shares.

Despite claims of 129 million monthly active users at the end of December, growth in user numbers has slowed down to a record low according to the Financial Times. The company has also had a number of run-ins with the government for posts by some high-profile users who have criticized China’s ruling party.

Alibaba, which has also filed for a U.S. IPO, currently owns an 18% stake in the company and has said that it will exercise its option to boost its stake to 30% and appoint one member to Weibo’s board of directors. There is some speculation that Alibaba may move to acquire Weibo after both IPO’s are completed.

Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ: YHOO), which owns a 24% stake in Alibaba, has a dog in the hunt as well. The company’s stake in Alibaba could be worth $36 billion if Alibaba’s IPO goes out at a valuation of $150 billion. Valuation estimates for Alibaba have been as high as $200 billion, but these have come down recently for the same reasons that Weibo’s sights have been lowered.