Chinese Competitor Will IPO In U.S. Before Facebook

One of China's largest social networks, Renren, plans an initial public offering in the U.S., while Facebook not only hasn't yet planned its own such transaction but has been blocked by the Chinese government for over a year.

renren LogoChina continues to block Facebook but one of the country’s largest social networks, Renren, plans an initial public offering in the U.S.

Facebook has yet to plan any public offering, but Renren’s parent Oak Pacific Interactive told Reuters about a U.S. IPO occurring sometime in 2011. For that, the Chinese social networking company hired two non-U.S. investment banks Credit Suisse Group AG and Deutsche Bank AG.

The Chinese government has blocked Facebook access since 2009. More than 100 different social networking sites operate in China, although two of them closed earlier this year due to financial problems.

Before the local government shut it down, Facebook’s membership in China was maybe half a percent of what Renren has today, about 100 million members. That’s nearly a quarter of all Internet users in the country.

Renren’s parent company Oak Pacific Interactive also owns a Chinese variation on Groupon called Nuomi, plus a daily deal and entertainment community called Mop.

Meanwhile, two other social networks in China want to go public:

  • TaoMee, a social network for children, wants to file for an IPO late in 2011 and might statrt shopping for investment banks as early as the first quarter.
  • Kaixin001 also has designs on an IPO but hasn’t selected a bank for that.

Whether the desired IPOs were to happen in the U.S. remains unclear, but trends point in that direction. Chinese companies represent about one in four out of IPOs happening on these shores in 2010. A number of them have had spectacular opening days, as much as quadrupling in value, according to Reuters.

Does it seem unfair or ironic that China blocks Facebook but Chinese social media companies can go public in U.S. markets? Would a transaction help change the government’s mind about whether to continue censoring Facebook?