It looks like Groupon’s IPO should get a nice pop on its debut this Friday (at least according to reports from Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal). So why not a public offering from its Chinese counterpart?
Lashou Group, which filed for an IPO on Friday, offers up to 1,000 daily deals across 500 cities and towns in China. Most of the offers are from restaurants, hotels and beauty shops, with a merchant base is roughly 24,000.
And growth has been torrid. Average monthly unique visitors have soared from 295,000 in the second quarter of 2010 to 29.7 million in the third quarter of 2011. Based on this metric, the company is the No.1 player in the daily-deals business in China.
As should be no surprise, Lashou has borrowed the best practices of Groupon, including generous money-back guarantees, as well as a massive sales force of 3,100 people.
But there is another similarity: losses. For the first half of 2011, the red ink came to $60.5 million on revenue of only $8.9 million.
There’s also the issue of intense competition. According to iResearch, there are more than 1,000 rivals in the daily-deals space in China. They include independent operators – like Meituan.com, 55tuan.com and 24quan.com – as well as diversified Internet companies, such as Tencent.
Interestingly enough, Groupon tried to buy Lashou earlier in the year for a reported $500 million. It probably would have been a good deal, since Groupon has had troubles getting traction in China. In fact, Groupon may still make another play for Lashou.
If anything, the valuation may be more attractive. Let’s face it: Chinese IPOs have had a tough time in the U.S. Companies like Renren (Nasdaq:RENN), Youku.com (Nasdaq:YOKU) and Dangdang (Nasdaq:DANG) have suffered big-time drops since their offerings. In light of all this, there may be lots of pressure on the ultimate price of the Lashou deal.
Tom Taulli runs the InvestorPlace blog “IPOPlaybook,” a site dedicated to the hottest news and rumors about initial public offerings. He is also the author of “All About Short Selling” and “All About Commodities.” Follow him on Twitter at @ttaulli. As
of this writing, he did not own a position in any of the aforementioned stocks.