LinkedIn adds Chinese censorship as risk to IPO

NEW YORK Mon Mar 14, 2011 12:46pm EDT

A security officer keeps watch inside the Great Hall of the People during the opening ceremony of the National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing March 5, 2011. REUTERS/Jason Lee

A security officer keeps watch inside the Great Hall of the People during the opening ceremony of the National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing March 5, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Lee

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Following a recent blocking of LinkedIn in China, the social Internet network for professionals warned potential investors in its initial public offering that similar incidents in the future could hurt its value.

In its latest filing with U.S. financial regulators, LinkedIn confirmed that the Chinese government had briefly blocked access to its site and said that such censorship by China or other governments or organizations could lead to the loss or slowing of growth in its member base or member activity.

LinkedIn, which recently surpassed 1 million users in China, has filed with U.S. regulators to raise up to $175 million in a highly awaited U.S. technology IPO, but has yet to set terms and the timing of the offering.

Last month, users in China were unable to access the site following online calls on other websites for gatherings inspired by protests against authoritarian regimes across the Middle East.

Access was restored the next day, although it had been unclear whether the disruption was caused by censorship or network problems.

LinkedIn, with its relatively small user base of adult professionals, has been accessible in China through the local Internet service. Other social websites with much larger numbers of users, including Facebook, Twitter and Google's YouTube, are currently blocked in the country.

In the March 11 revision to the IPO filing, LinkedIn also specified it would have two classes of authorized common stock, Class A and Class B, with equal holder rights but different voting and conversion rights.

LinkedIn first filed on January 27 with the Securities and Exchange Commission to list either on Nasdaq or the New York Stock Exchange.

Bloomberg first reported the new risk factor added to the IPO filing late on Sunday.

(Reporting by Alina Selyukh; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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