* Twitter-like Sina Weibo could be worth at least $4.3 bln
* IPO comes as Chinese companies flock to U.S. markets
By Elzio Barreto and Paul Carsten
HONG KONG/BEIJING, Feb 24 Sina Corp has
hired Credit Suisse AG and Goldman Sachs Group Inc
for a U.S. initial public offering worth about $500
million of its Sina Weibo microblogging service, a source
familiar with the plans said on Monday.
Sina Weibo, one of several Chinese Twitter-like short
messaging blogs, plans a listing in the second quarter, added
the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the
matter. The IPO plans were initially reported by the Financial
The IPO follows Facebook Inc's $19 billion purchase
last week of fast-growing mobile-messaging startup WhatsApp and
a surge in Internet-related equity deals and mergers and
Sina Weibo's offering would also come as Chinese companies
flock to the U.S. IPO market in their biggest numbers since 2010
because of soaring valuations.
Sina will announce its fourth-quarter earnings after markets
close in New York on Monday. The company declined to comment on
the listing plans when contacted by Reuters.
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd bought an 18 percent
stake in Sina Weibo for $586 million last April, valuing Weibo
at $3.3 billion. Since then Sina's stock price has risen by
one-third, implying the microblogging business could now be
worth at least $4.3 billion. Alibaba also declined to comment.
As part of its initial deal with Weibo, Alibaba has an
option to increase its stake in Sina Weibo to 30 percent for an
unspecified amount within a certain time period, although it is
unclear whether this has passed.
Microblogging may be on the decline in China however, as
users opt for more private mobile messaging apps over public
platforms like Sina Weibo.
Blockbuster mobile messaging apps like Tencent Holdings
Ltd's WeChat, or Weixin in China, have become venues
of choice for users who want to express views without fear of
retribution. The government last year started clamping down on
"online rumours" which it says threaten social stability.
The number of microblog users fell 9 percent last year as
people jumped to mobile messaging apps like WeChat, according to
a January report from the official China Internet Network
Information Center which sent Sina tumbling.
Despite the decline in microblog users, Sina has been able
to wring money from its service. Weibo advertising revenues for
the quarter ending September 2013 grew 125 percent year-on-year
to $43.7 million, according to Sina. Non-advertising revenues
from Weibo's value-added services, such as Weibo membership fees
and games, more than doubled, rising 121 percent year on year to