Chinese Social Media Titan YY Files for IPO

The deal will be a test of investor's appetite for risk

By Tom Taulli, InvestorPlace Writer & IPO Playbook Editor

Chinese-based social media operator YY has filed to go public. The lead underwriters include Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS), Deutsche Bank (NYSE:DB) and Citigroup (NYSE:C). The initial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but the company plans to list on the Nasdaq under the ticker YY.

Launched in mid-2008, YY operates a platform that allows for real-time online group chat through voice, text and video. It has a whopping 400.5 million registered users and accounts for about 84.2% of the social media market in China.

While the core service is free, YY has added premium offerings. Users can use real money to get virtual items, game tokens and music.

From 2009 to 2011, revenues grew at a sizzling annual rate of 213%. For the first six months of 2012, revenues came to $51.1 million. But YY had a net loss of $11.8 million.

All in all, YY does look like a solid play on the Chinese online market. Yet as seen with other high-profile deals from China such as Renren (NYSE:RENN) and Dangdang (NYSE:DANG), the risks are substantial. So the YY deal will be a test to see whether IPO investors are willing to take a flier.

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 “How to Create the Next Facebook.”  Follow him on Twitter at @ttaulli. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

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