While most of the buzz concerning Chinese e-commerce players has been spent on the Alibaba IPO, the country’s No. 2, JD.com (JD), earned its own bit of spotlight as it launched an impressive offering today.
The JD.com IPO priced at $19 per share, which was a positive surprise above the expected price range of $16-to-$18. Moreover, Chinese Internet holding company Tencent (TCEHY) purchased $1.3 billion worth of shares. And in aftermarket performance, the JD.com IPO rose about 11% in morning trading.
What’s Behind China’s No. 2?
If you don’t know much about JD.com, you’re probably not alone. For one, it’s an e-commerce player in China, so there’s little consumer awareness here in the states, and what interest anyone might take in the market has mostly been focused on Alibaba.
So, here’s a quick primer:
For the most part, JD.com operates in a similar manner as Amazon.com (AMZN). It holds inventory and ships directly to its customers, while Alibaba is essentially a listing service for third-party merchants. To pull this off, JD.com has built 86 warehouses with gross floor area of about 1.5 million square meters — an infrastructure the company believes allows for better customer service, which in turn breeds greater loyalty.
Like Amazon.com, JD.com also has an extension selection, user recommendations and competitive prices. The site boasts about 47.4 million active customers, and it features about 25.7 million stock keeping units (SKUs), up from only 1.5 million in 2011.
As that last number would indicate, growth has been quite robust. From 2011 to 2013, revenues shot up from RMB21.1 billion to RMB69.3 billion (or about $11.5 billion in U.S. dollars) in 2013.
Granted, JD.com has posted overall losses, but this is forgivable considering how much the company has had to spend building out its infrastructure.
The growth opportunity hear can’t be overstated. According to iResearch, ecommerce expenditures in China are forecast to improve from RMB1.3 trillion in 2012 to RMB3.8 trillion (Or U.S. $626 billion) in 2016. That’s a 30.2% compound annual growth rate!
JD.com also should get a boost from its strategic relationship with Tencent. The company will manage Tencent’s e-commerce operations, which will mean leveraging the wildly popular WeChat app — a messaging service with more than 400 million users that could be used as a rich platform to encourage purchases.
Translation: JD.com could also turn into an interesting play on mobile commerce in China.
Should You Buy the JD.com IPO?
So is all this a ringing endorsement for the JD.com IPO?
Well, in addition to all the positives mentioned above, JD stock also sports a reasonable valuation of 2.5 times last year’s sales, which compares to about 1.9 for Amazon.com — not that “reasonable” is often used in tandem with Amazon and its valuation.
But upside aside, there’s no need to rush to buy into the JD.com IPO. After all, initial public offerings tend to be fickle, and demand usually lessens in the first few months of trading. You’ve seen it even in the hottest of offerings, such as Twitter (TWTR) and Facebook (FB).
Plus, recent Chinese deals have struggled — take recent case Weibo (WB). Since coming public in mid April, this hot Chinese social media stock has seen most of its gains wiped out.
And circling back to the Alibaba IPO: The offering, which could raise a blowout $15 billion to $20 billion, is sure to suck the attention and gleam off the JD.com IPO.
JD.com is undoubtedly an impressive company and should be a good way to play several tech megatrends in China. But with almost every public offering, patience is a virtue — and the JD.com IPO likely will be no exception.
Tom Taulli runs the InvestorPlace blog IPO Playbook. He is also the author of High-Profit IPO Strategies, All About Commodities and All About Short Selling. Follow him on Twitter at @ttaulli. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.