Chinese Facebook clone Renren going for U.S. IPO

With hopes to tap the strong appetite for Chinese tech stocks in US; China's largest social network, Renren, a Facebook clone, has filed for a U.S. initial public offering to raise up to $573.1 million.

Renren's website -- has some 117 million registered users as of 31 march 2011-- is similar to Facebook as it allows users to share locations with friends, "like" something and post updates.

Renren is the first of a group of Facebook clones hoping to boost their profile with an American listing. Close to follow Renren is rival social network Kaixin001.

Renren, owned by Oak Pacific Interactive, is offering about 52.1 million American Depository Shares (ADS). The company expects the IPO to be priced at between $9 and $11 per ADS. Oak Pacific’s other online property is Nuomi, a website featuring daily deals similar to the popular U.S. website Groupon.

Such is the appetite for Chinese Tech companies in US that Online video company Inc (YOKU.N), better known as China's YouTube, surged 161 percent on its debut late last year, locking in the best first-day returns of an IPO in five years.

Notably, China's Internet sector -- the world's largest by users -- is hot commodity for investors as it is difficult for outside competitors to overcome the political and cultural barriers to operate there. With Facebook and Twitter banned in the country, Social networking sites have grown in popularity in China in recent years, gaining most of their revenue from online advertising. But the market is getting increasingly populated and competitive with more than 100 social networking sites operating; with some already being shut down. In 2010, Renren had revenue of about $76.5 million and a net loss from continuing operations of $61.2 million including some charges. But still a closed economy and user rich country is a definite attraction for investors.

But critics are already warning of a bubble forming. --------

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