Qihoo, Alibaba-Backed Momo Tested By China Crash

KENNESAW, Ga. (Jul 8, 2015) — Alibaba led the financial news for months as the China-based Internet conglomerate made its $25 billion IPO — the biggest ever — on the New York Stock Exchange last fall.

Now many U.S.-listed Chinese firms plan an about-face.

They're delisting from the U.S. stock market and going private. Many aim to go public in China despite a crash in the Chinese exchanges that follows big run-ups that many analysts called a bubble.

Some observers see the go-private trend continuing.

"Most privatization deal terms will be unchanged by the short-term volatility of China's domestic stock market," Rosenblatt Securities analyst Jun Zhang wrote in a research note this week.

In the first half of the year, 19 Chinese-owned companies that traded in U.S. stock market reported plans to go private, according to research group Dealogic.

That's vs. just one in the first half of 2014, and 11 in all of 2013.

A major go-private move came on June 17, when Chinese security software and Web search firm Qihoo 360 Technology (NYSE:QIHU) jumped on board.

A consortium led by Qihoo CEO Zhou Hongyi made a $10 billion buyout offer that would pay $77 per American depositary share.

Since then, Qihoo's U.S. stock has tumbled, casting doubts about the deal. Qihoo stock fell 5.2% Wednesday to 55.59. It's down 23.5% since June 17, with a market cap near $6.8 billion.

Yet analyst Zhang expects Qihoo 360 to close its deal by January.

U.S.-listed China firms will likely still find that their valuations back in China will be "five to 10 times" what they're fetching on Wall Street, Zhang wrote, "even though the Chinese stock markets have been down more than 50%."

Jenny Liu, a partner at Squire Patton Boggs, says her Beijing-based law firm is "currently helping a number of Chinese companies" with corporate restructurings so they can be listed in China.

"Despite its unpredictability at times," Liu told IBD, "the Chinese stock market is doing remarkably well."

But some companies might be losing their cool.

Risk 'Too High' For Now

"Some of the companies I talk to, their management believes that the risk is too high at this moment and they don't want to go private," Henry Guo, an analyst with W.R. Hambrecht/Summit Research, told IBD.

With the recent sell-off in the Chinese markets, the "valuation gap between China and the U.S. is smaller and smaller," Guo said. The recent decline in the shares of some of the Chinese companies planning to delist from the U.S. shows investors fear the companies "are likely to change their mind."