Weibo—'Twitter of China'—set for Thursday IPO in US

The landscape of Weibo's IPO environment
The landscape of Weibo's IPO environment

China's Weibo priced its initial public offering (IPO) at $17 per American Depository Share (ADS), at the bottom of its planned range, an underwriter told Reuters.

That put the value of the microblogging firm, which will trade under the ticker symbol "WB" on the Nasdaq on Thursday, at $3.46 billion. Bloomberg noted that would make it half as valuable as Twitter.

Weibo, which means "microblog," had planned to sell its shares at between $17 and $19 per share. According to Reuters, the firm sold 16.8 million ADSs in the offering, raising $285.6 million.

"Weibo is a wild-card, it has a complicated ownership structure," Keith Fitz-Gerald, chief investment strategist at Money Map Press, an independent financial services newsletter, told CNBC Asia's "Street Signs."

"The voice of the consumer is more powerful in China, they [Chinese consumers] are more accepting of ads. I don't know if they [Weibo] have effectively monetized this yet, so it could have a soft opening."

The Weibo app logo is displayed on a tablet computer
Lionel Bonaventure | AFP | Getty Images

Some observers had expected the so-called Twitter of China to be an IPO smash. This despite the fact that the company had a loss of more than $47 million in the first quarter of 2014, more than twice the loss it had in the same time period in 2013.

The company was founded in 2010, and has 129.1 million active monthly users in 190 countries, according to its recent SEC filing. The same release says that the company has "become a cultural phenomenon" that has had a "profound social impact" in China.

The appetite for Chinese tech IPOs appears healthy on U.S. exchanges, with Alibaba—which Yahoo owns a substantial stake in—to be one of the largest IPOs in history when it debuts later this year.

This despite a general pullback in the tech sector, and well-known risks in investing in some Chinese IPOs.

"You could write a long list of worries about this company [Weibo]," Rett Wallace, the co-founder and CEO of Triton Research, told CNBC.

"But the truth is that this is a company that didn't exist four years ago, that nobody in the U.S. had heard about [until] two months ago and is in the process of a capital raising in the U.S. markets," he said.

Wallace added: "The macro story here is that this IPO is a trial balloon for the Alibaba IPO that everybody is waiting for. It is a robust company in terms of price even though the markets have come off its highs in recent months."

—By staff; Reuters contributed to this report