Pacific Crest Securities, a U.S. investment bank focused on technology, said it plans to hire more bankers and analysts in China as fund-raising from initial share sales by local Internet firms may set a record this year.
“Our focus is on research and banking,” Brewer Stone, head of Asian investment banking at Pacific Crest, said in an interview in Beijing yesterday. The bank now employs 5 people in China and expects to increase that “very significantly in the near term,” Stone said, without disclosing details.
Stone said at least 20 Chinese Internet and technology companies are planning initial public offerings this year and the combined proceeds raised will exceed all previous annual totals. Pacific Crest is co-managing the proposed listing by Renren Inc., a Chinese provider of a social networking service similar to that of Facebook Inc., after winning a role in last year’s IPO of Youku.com Inc.
“You have very high growth rates that are fundamentally driving a lot of the businesses,” Stone said as he attended the Global Mobile Internet conference in Beijing. “There is just an enormous hunger for these types of investments from leading institutional investors in the U.S. and elsewhere.”
Renren’s proposed IPO may raise as much as $584 million, according to a filing this month to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission by the Beijing-based company. Youku.com, owner of China’s biggest online video site, has more than quadrupled in U.S. trading since its IPO in December.
Pacific Crest will manage the IPOs of at least five Chinese companies this year, more than its three deals in 2010, Stone said. Last year, the Portland, Oregon-based bank also helped manage the London listing of Russia’s Mail.ru Group Ltd.
China had 457 million Internet users at the end of last year, according to the China Internet Network Information Center, a government-affiliated group that compiles industry statistics. That’s more than the combined populations of the U.S. and Japan.