Despite some catty disagreements between Tudou Holdings’ CEO and his ex-wife, it appears the online video sharing site will soon IPO on U.S. stock exchanges.
The move has been delayed for several months for unspecified reasons even as rival site, Youku.com (NYSE:YOKU) enjoyed a spectacular IPO in December. YOKU shares have risen more than four times their IPO price of $12.80, and it will be interesting to see if investors greet Tudou shares with the same enthusiasm.
Traffic at the two online video sharing sites is nearly even. Alexa.com ranks Youku as the 10th-most-visited site in China, but Tudou’s not far behind in the No. 12 slot (as indicated by the red line below):
Still, there is no clear-cut winner in the market yet, and there probably won’t be anytime soon. The question is which company will differentiate itself first as China’s leading video site? Investors will get their chance to make their bets soon enough.
Tudou IPO: Key Facts and Figures
Profits? Not yet. Tudou lost $55 million last year, more than twice its loss in 2009. About a third of that loss was attributed to share-based compensation and “fees paid to third-party advertising agencies” (per the Wall Street Journal). Youku fared somewhat better with a 2010 net loss of $31.5 million. Throughout 2010, Tudou generated revenue of $43.3 million while Youku’s revenues were $59.6 million.
Ex-wife? That spat between Tudou CEO Gary Wang and his ex-wife could have serious implications for the company. Wang’s ex believes she’s entitled to half of his Tudou holdings. If that’s upheld in court, it could fundamentally shift the power structure for the company creating as much internal pressure as external pressure from rivals like Youku and Baidu’s (NASDAQ:BIDU) Qiyi.com. “Under PRC law and judicial practice, in principle, community property during marriage should be equally divided upon divorce, subject to any agreement reached by the divorced couple and other principles such as the impact on the continuous operation of the involved business,” Tudou writes in its recently-amended F1 filing.
The true “YouTube of China?” Youku relishes its nickname as the “YouTube of China,” but in fact both Tudou and Youku have diversified by offering pay-as-you-go, professionally produced content.
“Through building long-term partnerships with copyright holders and communicating with our media partners, Youku Premium is creating a whole new way for people to find and watch the content they want, when they want it,” Youku founder and CEO Victor Koo said in January.
Tudou has also branched out from user-generated video. Not only does the company license professionally-produced content for paying members, it also produces its own in-house premium content (including That Love Comes in November 2010 and last month’s debut of Utopia Office, which has been compared to the U.S. sci-fi show Fringe).
Still, user-generated content remains the heart and soul of the site with users uploading more than 40,000 video clips to Tudou last year. Total user registrations on the site climbed from 56.4 million in 2009 to 78.2 million by by the end of 2010.
Coming to a Chinese mobile near you. One of the brightest spots in Tudou’s business plan comes from a partnership with China Mobile – the PRC’s state-run mobile company that happens to operate the largest telecommunications network in the world. “We … began generating revenues in January 2010 from our mobile video services, which we provide primarily through a video channel with China Mobile, and we had an aggregate of approximately 15.8 million users with a total of approximately 27.7 million clip views in 2010,” Tudou writes.
China Mobile users can opt to pay a monthly subscription fee for the service. As the number of smartphones proliferates behind the Great Wall, expect mobile revenue to start contributing a lot more to Tudou’s bottom line. Still, it’s unclear how long it will take Tudou (or Youku for that matter) to start generating profits. In the meantime, a lot of investors seem to have their fingers crossed hoping for the best.