November 1, 2013 / 6:01 PM / in 4 years

UPDATE 1-Baidu's Qunar doubles in debut as Chinese stocks make a U.S. comeback

(Adds details, analyst comments, updates shares)

By Tanya Agrawal

Nov 1 (Reuters) - Shares of Qunar Cayman Islands Ltd doubled in their market debut, underscoring revived investor interest in Chinese companies as they return to the U.S. IPO market after a series of scandals led to a collapse in listings in 2012.

The number of Chinese companies listing in the United States plunged from a high of 40 in 2010 to just two in 2012 after a rash of accounting scandals and ensuing share sell-off that led to a wave of delistings.

Five Chinese companies have listed on the Nasdaq and New York Stock Exchange so far this year, including Qunar, which is controlled by Chinese internet giant Baidu Inc.

Qunar’s shares, which were sold at $15 each, hit a high of $34.99 on Friday, valuing the company at about $11.8 billion.

Qunar, which means “where are you going” in Chinese, raised about $167 million after its offering of 11.1 million American Depositary Shares were priced at well above the expected range.

Chinese online classifieds company Inc’s stock rose more than 45 percent in its debut on Thursday.

The success of Qunar and bodes well for the IPO of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd as it prepares to float its shares in an IPO expected next year that could raise about $15 billion.

“Most Chinese companies that have gone public this year have been tech or internet related companies and investors are willing to pay a little extra for these type of companies regardless of where they are based,” said Jay Ritter, a finance professor at the University of Florida.

Analysts say another reason that Chinese companies are making a comeback is that the offerings are being underwritten by big names such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.

Among other Chinese companies hitting the U.S. market this year, shares of microlender China Commercial Credit are up 53 percent since listing in August while semiconductor solution provider Montage Technology Group is up 41 percent since September.

But a strong “first-day pop” is no guarantee that a company can maintain a lofty share price.

Shares of Chinese online retailer LightInTheBox, which raised about $91 million in June, are now trading below the IPO price after rising as much as 32 percent on the first day of trading.

Baidu, the largest Internet search engine in China, acquired a majority stake in Qunar in 2011 for $306 million. It now holds a 55 percent stake in the company.

Qunar had 203.2 million customers as of June, up from 187.3 million at the end of 2012.

More than 100 million Qunar mobile apps have been downloaded, the company said in its IPO filing.

China’s e-commerce market is booming as the use of mobile devices explodes. Morgan Stanley estimates that China’s mobile internet market will to triple to around $30 billion by 2015.

Qunar, which is yet to post a profit, reported a net loss of $2.76 million on revenue of $58.46 million for the six months ended June 30.

Goldman Sachs (Asia), Stifel and Deutsche Bank Securities were the lead underwriters for its offering. (Reporting by Avik Das and Tanya Agrawal in Bangalore; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Ted Kerr)

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