UCWeb Targets 2013 IPO as Mobile Browser Expands to U.S.

UCWeb Inc., the Chinese maker of a popular mobile Web browser, may hold an initial public offering next year as it plots a course to serve a billion users by 2017.

“We’re thinking this year may not be a good time” to hold an IPO, Chief Financial Officer Roy Rong said in an interview today at Bloomberg’s San Francisco office. “We’re looking at 2013 right now,” he said.

UCWeb, founded in 2004, is seeking to expand the reach of its mobile browser, which now has 300 million users on a range of devices. The Beijing-based company would probably hold its IPO in the U.S., yet has little need to raise funds soon, and it has been discouraged by the negative sentiment toward Internet stocks, Rong said.

“It would be better for us, branding-wise, to be listed in the U.S.,” Chief Executive Officer Yongfu Yu said today through an interpreter. “It would expand our brand name and make us better known.”

The company plans to open a U.S. office in the fourth quarter of this year and fill it with as many as 10 engineers, Yu said. UCWeb has struck deals in the past three months with U.S.-based technology companies looking to grow in China, including Evernote Corp.

The company makes 75 percent of its sales from advertising-related services and 25 percent from other services, such as virtual goods sold in games played on its browser, Rong said.

UCWeb, which competes with Tencent Holdings Ltd., is profitable, Yu said.

Money Raised

The company has raised a total of $80 million to $100 million from investors, and its last funding round closed early last year, Rong said. He declined to disclose how much was raised in that round or the company’s valuation.

UCWeb is seeking to make investments and small acquisitions in China and elsewhere, Yu said.

The company expects revenue from purchases made within mobile games in emerging markets to be an important area of growth, Yu said. Meanwhile, he said advertising on smartphones in China hasn’t struggled like it has in the U.S., where Facebook Inc. has faced challenges making money from mobile users.

“The advertising is all good news,” Yu said.

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