Sina Q3 Beats, No User Update On Microblog Weibo, China expert Benjamin wey says

2011-11-08

Sina Corporation (SINA) investors are still obsessed with Weibo.

Shares for China Web portal Sina were down 1% in after-hours trading Tuesday after the company reported Q3 sales and profit that beat analyst views. But for the first time this year, the company provided no updated user count for its fast-growing Weibo microblog

Sina followed Sohu.com (SOHU), another regional Web portal, and Baidu (BIDU), China’s leading search service, which saw rising ad revenue in the quarter. But most Sina investors appear to be more preoccupied with the company’s Sina Weibo Twitter-like service, says Benjamin Wey, president of New York Global Group, an advisory firm focused on China.

“The street is mostly watching how Weibo is doing,” he said.

Others agree.

Sina reported its Weibo service had more than 200 million users in August, after reporting more than 140 million in May and 100 million in March. “The story here is Weibo,” said Adam Krejcik, an analyst for Roth Capital Partners. He expected Sina to announce Weibo’s subscriber count had now surpassed 250 million.

For Q3, Sina reported per-share profit minus one-time items of 26 cents, down 48% from 50 cents in the year-earlier quarter but up from 20 cents in Q2.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had expected 23 cents a share.

The company also recorded a loss of $336.3 million stemming from a decline in its mobile value-added businesses and investments in real estate and a stake in Mecox Lane, an online apparel retailer. With this, its net loss was $5.10 a share.

Revenue minus one-time gains rose 21% to $125.6 million, edging views of $124.7 million.

Mum On Weibo

Charles Chao, Sina’s chief executive, said little about Sina Weibo’s growth in a statement. Sina planned a conference call with analysts for 8 p.m. ET.

“Since the launch of Weibo.com v4.0 (the latest version) in September, over half of the existing users have upgraded, and we continue to see rapid growth of new users,” Chao said in the statement.

For Q4, Sina expects revenue minus one-time items of $128 million to $131 million. Analysts were expecting $128.1 million.
In the quarter, Sina’s ad revenue rose 25% from the year-earlier quarter to a record $101 million. The company’s previous record was $91.8 million set in Q2.

In late August, Sina bought a 9% stake in Tudou.com (TUDO), a leading video site in China, for about $66.4 million.
Tudou’s content could become a boom for Sina advertisers, Wey says.

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