As Google (GOOG) spreads its wings in China, many think it may try to buy Sina (SINA), the country's top Net portal. With its online ad business projected to grow 30% to 35% annually for the next three years, Sina is a "very attractive target" for Google, says Jane Hsieh of investment firm Clay Finlay, whose $7 billion portfolio is heavily invested in China, Japan, and Korea. Google wants to gain a larger foothold in China, she says, and is "considering Sina as a buyout." It offers an array of news, entertainment, and other content targeting people of Chinese descent worldwide. Now trading at 26.12, Sina's stock "is cheap relative to its peers, at 33 times estimated 2006 earnings of 80 cents a share," figures Hsieh. At 35, the stock would equal its peers' valuation, she says. Ming Shao of Susquehanna Financial Group, who rates Sina a "buy," sees several Chinese outfits as suitable suitors, too. Among them: Alibaba.com, Tom Online (TOMO), and Focus Media (FMCN).
Note: Unless otherwise noted, neither the sources cited in Inside Wall Street nor their firms hold positions in the stocks under discussion. Similarly, they have no investment banking or other financial relationships with them.
By Gene G. Marcial