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First Chinese IPO since April rises 10% in debut

November 21, 2012: 11:04 AM ET

Executives of Chinese social networking firm YY run the opening bell at the Nasdaq Wednesday to commemorate its first day of trading.

YY, the first Chinese company to brave the U.S. initial public offering market since April, was expected to meet a wary investor base Wednesday. Yet YY's (YY) stock managed to rise 10%  in its debut on Nasdaq (NDAQ).

A Chinese Internet social media platform with a focus on gaming and video chats, YY, priced its offering at $10.50, the low end of its expected range. The company raised $82 million for investors by selling 7.8 million shares. Morgan Stanley (MS), Citigroup (C) and Deutsche Bank (DB) led the underwriting for YY.

It's been a rough year for Chinese IPOs. Investors, already skittish because of some high-profile accounting scandals involving Chinese companies, have shied away from these offerings. Four offerings were pulled. But the two that have gone public this year have performed fairly well. Shares of online retailer Vipshop (VIPS) have nearly doubled since their March IPO, and online advertising company Acquity Group (AQ) is up nearly 10% from its IPO price.

YY's CEO David Li said via a translator that he's been less concerned about the U.S. market's reception to Chinese companies in the short-term and expects to unlock value for shareholders over the long-term.

Related: How Muddy Waters spots fraud in China

In a sign of management's faith in its value, none of YY's executives or its venture capital investors sold shares in the IPO, chief financial officer Eric Ho said. Ahead of the IPO, YY raised about $100 million in capital from Morningside Ventures, Disney's (DIS) venture arm Steamboat Ventures, GGV, and Tiger Global. Its most recent fundraising round in January 2011, led by Tiger Global, valued YY at $1 billion.

Not all potential investors are convinced that the company has room to run. "My clients are sitting this IPO out," said Scott Sweet, founder of IPO Boutique. "The days of the Chinese IPOs being red hot are over at least until they can show that investors have no reason to be worried about fraud."

Investors haven't forgotten about companies like Sino-Forest, formerly traded in Canada, which saw its shares crumble on allegations of accounting fraud. But even hot China Internet stocks like Baidu (BIDU) and Sina (SINA) are down this year on concerns about valuation and slowing growth.

YY could struggle going forward because of economic headwinds in China. Investors may also penalize YY because of its resemblance to some social media companies in the U.S. with short but checkered histories as public companies like social gaming company Zynga (ZNGA). The epic flop of Facebook (FB) following its IPO in May also has hurt demand for social media stocks.

But after generating net losses between 2009 and 2011, YY finally derived a profit of roughly $8.9 million in revenues for the first nine months of 2012 on a revenue stream that's rapidly increasing. YY's executives said the company plans to generate more revenue by asking users to pay to watch live musical events and competitions among top video gamers.

YY plans to use some of the IPO proceeds to expand beyond China in the next year. It's currently testing the international waters in Brazil.

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