Managing Asia

Managing Asia

We have underinvested: Sina CEO

Interview by Christine Tan I Written by Katie Holliday
Sina CEO: Focusing on user growth

Weibo, China's most popular micro-blogging site, is thriving but the CEO of parent firm Sina Corporation told CNBC he neglected investment in its core portal.

Charles Chao, who is also Weibo's chairman, told CNBC's "Managing Asia" he was so focused on monetizing the micro-blogging site he left the core business on the sidelines.

"There's no question that we have underinvested a little bit," said Chao.

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"That's another reason we have [carried out a] separate listing for Weibo. Then people will go back and look at Sina with a clearer picture [and] without Weibo what does it look like?" he added.

Weibo - described as a hybrid of Twitter and Facebook - was spun off from internet portal Sina in March but raised a less-than-expected $286 million after the size of its IPO was reduced amid a selloff in technology shares in April.

Chao said the firm failed to invest enough in mobile, in particular.

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"It's [Sina's] portal and it has a lot of traffic and revenue growth and also good profit but it's true, we have not invested enough money in the mobile area," he added.

China's Weibo CEO Charles Chao.
Spencer Platt | Getty Images

Nearly 40 percent of China's population uses the internet on their mobile phones, according to theChina Internet Network Information Center, and analysts expect this to increase.

"The next trend is mobile right? Everything is shifting to mobile. If you're left behind, you're dead. We have a lot of mobile traffic but [it's] not efficiently monetized," he added.

Sina reported first quarter revenue of $171.5 million in mid-May, up 37.9 percent on year, helped by a 161 percent surge in Weibo's revenue.

But the company anticipates a rough patch, with top line growth expected to slow to 16 percent in the second quarter from 19 percent in the first.

China's regulators present a crucial headwind for Sina. Last month the internet portal was fined $815,000 and two of its licenses for video and internet publishing were revoked due to illegal content.

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Chao said censorship is "part of life" in China, noting regulator's recent steps led them to tighten up controls internally.

He acknowledged there would be a negative impact on earnings.

"Basically we are saying it's going to impact book revenues… we have a service for online reading that will be impacted in the near term," he said.

"And then we are talking about advertising related video and that will have indirect impact because people will genuinely worry whether they can do video advertising on your website," said Chao.