With Alibaba’s IPO on the near horizon, there is already a class of public Internet Asian stocks whose products have the flavor to me of Whatsapp prior to the Facebook acquisition — products that are massive in usage but somewhat off the radar of many US investors.
On the conference call announcing the Whatsapp acquisition, Mark Zuckerberg explained, “[Whatsapp] doesn’t get as much attention in the U.S. as it deserves, because its community started off growing in Europe, India and Latin America. But WhatsApp is a very important and valuable worldwide communication network.”
I call this the Whatsapp Scenario.
(Read more: Alibaba starts plan for US IPO)
While many investors know these names and products backwards and forwards, many smart investors have not yet dug into the leading social media stocks and platforms in Asia. Here’s a basic primer to a few:
The one that I find most exciting from a product standpoint is Tencent’s (700 HK) Wechat. A Chinese hybrid of both Twitter and Whatsapp, Wechat allows for personal messaging, the following of news and brand accounts, and several other fun communications features. The “drift bottle,” is my personal favorite — you can throw messages in bottles into a virtual sea that other users can pick up.
The Wechat app already has 300 million users and is available in English for just about every platform. If you’re into tech and media investing and haven’t played with Wechat, give it a quick download.
(Read more: Net titans of China to go public in New York)
If Wechat were to roll out a game (think Candy Crush) on it’s platform, onboarded U.S. celebrities and media properties, or make some other tweak, there’s no reason to think it couldn’t go viral in the US and hit investors’ radars. I’m simply saying it’s a possibility.
On 2014 Bloomberg consensus estimates, Tencent trades at roughly 10.4 times enterprise value-to-sales compared to Twitter at 22.82 and Facebook at 14.45.
Similarly, Line (which is very similar to Whatsapp but has a heavy emphasis on “stickers” users can send) is owned by Korean Internet search firm Naver. Line has 370 million users and is No. 1 in Japan, Thailand, and Taiwan. It may be spun out with an IPO this year at a value of $10 billion.
Another social app to watch, that is similarly sitting inside a larger stock is Weibo, which is owned by China’s Sina Corp. Weibo is similar to Twitter but only has around 129 million monthly users. Alibaba owns an interest in Weibo, and Sinaplans to take it public in the U.S. in the second quarter. Sina’s 2014 enterprise value-to-sales multiple is just 4.49.
(Read more: Twitter CEO Costolo to make first China visit)
The final company worth mentioning is Youku Tudou, the “Youtube of China.” The company just put up a 42-percent jump in revenue from a year earlier; 10 percent of revenue comes from mobile. It’s one of the top five mobile apps in China, with the other four being messaging and web-browser apps. On the earnings calls, management lists Chevrolet, Lenovo, Nestle, DHL, and Ford as advertisers.
I can’t say that I’ve extensively researched Youku, but I plan to pay close attention to it from here on out. The stock has close to doubled in the last 12 months; Goldman has a “sell” rating on it. 2014 enterprise value-to-sales is 6.28.
—By Jon Steinberg
Jon Steinberg is the president & chief operating officer of BuzzFeed and is responsible for all business management, company operations, finance, and social advertising operations. Follow him on Twitter @jonsteinberg.
Disclosures: Facebook and Twitter are BuzzFeed business partners. BuzzFeed has integrated Whatsapp sharing functionality into its mobile site and app.