This Can't Be Right

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I spoke too soon.

I was criticizing Pacific Crest for issuing a price target of $13 on Wi-Fi network operator Boingo Wireless (Nasdaq: WIFI  ) on Monday. After all, Pacific Crest was one of the four underwriters that took Boingo Wireless public last month at $13.50 a pop.

As a busted IPO, $13 represents a healthy 70% premium to where the stock closed last week. It would be a great targeted return. However, it seems hypocritical to sell investors a debutante at $13.50, only to come back a month later and argue that it may only be worth $13 -- and that's if things pan out.

Well, Pacific Crest is at the center of another ugly price target.

After helping take Renren (NYSE: RENN  ) public last month at $14, Pacific Crest analyst Evan Wilson is initiating coverage of the Chinese social-networking site operator with an $11 price target.

One can rightfully argue that underwriters didn't create the mania. Renren was originally expected to price its offering between $9 and $11. It was investor demand that escalated the final price tag to $14. It was the free markets that floated the stock up to an intraday high of $24 as individual investors poured in the buy orders.

However, analysts are also the ones who win new business on the merits of their earlier successes. If you get involved with too many busted IPOs, investors will eventually notice.

Wilson sees Renren earning $0.08 a share this year on $120 million, with profits doubling to $0.16 a share on $200 million in revenue next year.

Backed by 33 million active monthly users who spend a lot of time on the sticky site, Renren's not going away anytime soon.

This doesn't make it China's Facebook. Renren lacks that kind of market penetration. It's also facing off against the larger Tencent and SINA (Nasdaq: SINA  ) , which are making some serious Web 2.0 strides in the world's most populous nation.

Facebook has also not decided who it will partner with for its anticipated entry into China. Renren would be off to the races if Facebook teams up with the site, but the more likely partner is Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU  ) , given its undisputed dominance in search.

Renren will still have to sway skeptics concerned with its odd corporate structure, given the recent trust issues between stateside investors and Chinese growth stocks. Investors who snap up Renren, white-collared connector LinkedIn (NYSE: LNKD  ) , and Latin America's Quepasa (AMEX: QPSA  ) as proxies for Facebook may flee to the true darling if and when Mark Zuckerberg gets serious about taking his company public.

This doesn't mean Renren isn't attractive at the right price. Unfortunately, I think $14 and even $11 may be too rich until Renren proves that it really is the Facebook of China and not its MySpace or Friendster.

Are you buying into Renren? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Baidu and SINA. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has only been to China once, but he relishes admiring its dot-com revolution from afar. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this article. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.

Read/Post Comments (2) | Recommend This Article (6)

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  • Report this Comment On June 15, 2011, at 1:47 PM, ClevelOfficer wrote:

    1. that PacCrest analyst's target was based on a P/E where the "E" was earnings in 2013 . Why didn't the analyst use 2012?

    2. Also, reading article of today, RENN is mentioned having users decline by 1% (last quarter i think).

    Regardless of today's results, the outlook is tougher: Today TenCent TCEHY just announced a another bigger initiative into on-line gaming

    So, many on-line gaming websites. Chinese users are go from one website to another.

    By the way, has lost 6 million user accounts recently. Is it logical to assume things always go up? even when there is the whole potential world out there? Well, no, because there are competing websites, privacy issues, etc.

    3. Security on RENN website was breached not too long ago. Privacy is an issue.

    RENN just does not have the size that other China on-line companies have, and it does not appear to be the hub/portal for all things social in the way that has caught on with users.

    P/E of 47 ...over-priced !

  • Report this Comment On June 15, 2011, at 2:14 PM, fun2bretired wrote:

    Yea, I got in Renren, maybe too early, but I also got into Baidu really early as well. Baidu has paid well, and Renren, well...can't always be right...

    Baidu is paying Renren right now.

    Has Renren Inc. Lost Its Steam?

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