《经济学人》:互联网企业,欢迎加入IPO俱乐部
日期:2011-06-16 11:15

(单词翻译:单击)

Internet companies 互联网企业

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Social-media firms see champagne; others see bubbles
社交媒体的香槟酒,业外人士的泡沫沫

Jun 9th 2011 | SAN FRANCISCO | from the print edition

INITIAL public offerings (IPOs) of internet start-ups are like buses: you wait ages for one to arrive, then several turn up at once. After years in the doldrums, the IPO market for technology firms has suddenly sprung to life again in America.

网络创业公司的首次公开募股(IPO)就像等公车一样:等半天不来一辆,突然一来就是好几辆。正如美国技术企业的IPO市场, 历经多年的死水微澜之后,突然重焕生机。

LinkedIn, a social network for professionals, kicked things off last month with a flotation on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) that valued it at $8.8 billion—572 times its profits last year—at the end of the first day of trading. Now a number of web outfits, including Groupon, which offers online coupons, and Pandora Media, an internet-radio firm, are queuing to join the party. Other start-ups could soon add themselves to the crowd, notably Zynga, the creator of addictive online games such as FarmVille, in which players grow turnips and breed pigs.

人脉网(LinkedIn)是一个职业人士专用的社交网络,上个月,在纽约证劵交易所(NYSE)举行了首次公开募股,当天便筹集到88亿美元资金——这可是该网站去年利润的572倍。如今包括高朋网(Groupon,团购网站)和潘多拉传媒(网络广播公司)在内的多家网络企业也对此趋之若鹜,希望能分一杯羹。其余新兴网络创业公司也可能会迅速加入其中,辛加(Zynga)便是个中典型,推出了一系列引人上瘾的网络游戏,例如“美版开心农场(FarmVille)”,玩家可以在游戏中种萝卜、养猪等等。

Web companies from China, Russia and elsewhere are also rushing to list on American exchanges. Shortly after LinkedIn’s stunning debut, which saw its share price more than double, Yandex, Russia’s largest search engine, floated its shares on the NYSE. Its price soared by more than 50% on the first day of trading. These first-day “pops”, as bankers call them, have stoked fears that a new internet bubble is inflating and reignited a furious debate about how best to value web start-ups.

中国、俄罗斯以及其他国家的网络公司也在争先恐后地加入美国证劵交易所的上市名单。在人脉网一炮走红,股价上升两倍多之后不久,俄罗斯最大的搜索引擎Yandex也立马在纽约证交所(NYSE)发行了自己的股份,股价在首日的升值便超过了50%。这些一夜涌现的“暴发户”(许多银行家如是称呼)激起了人们对于出现新一轮网络产业泡沫的忧虑,也引发了一场关于“如何正确评估新兴网络公司”的激烈辩论。

Groupon’s potential price tag ($15 billion, by one estimate) is already controversial. Labelled “the fastest-growing company ever” by ardent fans, the firm has turned a simple concept into a money-spinner. Customers sign up to receive offers from local firms. Groupon spices up the process by, say, having some offers expire unless a certain minimum number of people subscribe to them. This prompts people to nag their friends to shop at the same boutique or eat at the same diner—hence the “group” in Groupon.

高朋网的价值评估(一度被估计达150亿美元)一直充满争议。该企业凭借将一个简单概念化为摇钱树的本事,被许多热心的崇拜者标榜为“史上发展得最快的公司”。顾客可以通过签约来获得当地商家的优惠价格。高朋网则往这个过程中添油加醋,例如,“在期限前若未达到最低订购人数,本优惠将会失效”,此举便能激励顾客不断地催促朋友去购买同一件衣服,或者在同一家餐馆进餐——这就是高朋网所谓的“团购”。

The firm typically keeps roughly half of the money that customers fork out, with the rest going to the businesses that actually supply the goods and services. Last year its revenues were $713m. In the first quarter of 2011 it took in a breathtaking $645m. Although Groupon is less than three years old, it operates in 43 countries and has no fewer than 83m subscribers.

高朋网通常将大约一半的消费者付款纳入囊中,将剩下的部分交给实际提供了商品或服务的商家手中。去年其岁入高达7.13亿美元,而仅2011年头三个月的进账就达到了惊人的6.45亿美元。尽管高朋网诞生才不到3年,它的业务已经涵盖43个国家,团客多达8300万人。

The snag is that the company is still bleeding red ink. It lost $390m in 2010 and $103m in the first quarter of this year. Critics find this alarming. Groupon retorts that it is simply spending heavily to scoop up subscribers while the market it created is in its infancy. In its IPO prospectus, it urges investors to focus on other measures, such as free cashflow (operating cashflow minus capital expenditure), which was positive last year, and the arcane-sounding “adjusted consolidated segment operating income”, which excludes such things as cash spent on online marketing.

该公司的顽疾在于血淋淋的财政赤字。2010年损失为3.9亿美元,而本年度头三个月就亏损了1.03亿美元。批评家认为这个现象值得敲响警钟,但高朋网反驳说这片新开创的市场尚处发展初期,赤字仅是源于招揽团客所需的大笔开销。高朋网的公开招股说明书鼓励投资者将注意力集中在其他指标上,例如在去年显示出盈利的自由现金流(营运现金流减去资本支出),以及听上去晦涩难懂的“调整综合区运营收入”,其实就是除去诸如网络营销等开支后的财务数字。

"The path to success will have twists and turns, moments of brilliance and other moments of sheer stupidity. Knowing that this will at times be a bumpy ride, we thank you for considering joining us,” writes Groupon’s boss, Andrew Mason, in a letter to potential stockholders. Not everyone is reassured.

“成功之路蜿蜒曲折,路上光景,光辉灿烂抑或愚蠢十足。我们知道路途难免颠簸起伏,为此感谢你考虑加入我们。”高朋网的总裁,安德鲁•马森在一封献给未来股东的信件中如是写道。但这并不能让每个人都感到内心踏实。

How should one value a money-losing firm in a new industry? PwC, a consultancy, ranks web firms according to their “value per user”. This is calculated by dividing a start-up’s estimated worth (derived from venture-funding rounds, equity transactions on secondary markets and so on) by the number of its users.

那我们该如何评估新兴产业中的亏损企业呢?普华永道咨询事务所将新兴创业公司的预估价值(估值来自公司获得的风险投资和二级市场的股权交易等)除以其用户的数量,计算出企业的“每用户价值”,并根据该指标来对网络企业进行排名。

By this benchmark, Groupon scores well, just below Facebook and Renren, a Chinese social network with a listing in America (see chart). But such measures do not reflect the risks of Groupon’s model. The company may boast 83m users, but only 16m have actually bought a Groupon. Its success outside America has been patchy: just 9% of its subscribers in London have ever bought anything from it.

按照“每用户价值”的标准,高朋网的得分相当可观,仅次于脸谱(Facebook)网和人人网(在美国上市的一家中国社交网络公司)(见图表)。但这样的基准并不能反映高朋网这个案例中的风险。高朋网吹嘘自己拥有8300万名用户,但其中真正买过单的只有1600万人。该公司在美国国外的业绩更是良莠不齐:以伦敦为例,仅有9%的团客在高朋网上购买过东西。

Facebook enjoys a powerful network effect; Groupon, less so. It must spend a fortune to keep signing up new subscribers. Hence its keenness to steer investors towards a measure that excludes marketing costs. Groupon’s growth has attracted big competitors such as LivingSocial as well as a host of smaller start-ups. These rivals could poach its users with cheaper deals. And they could offer retailers better terms, too, in the process threatening Groupon’s fat margins.

脸谱网拥有强大的社群效应,这方面高朋网则逊色一筹。高朋网必须花费大笔钱财来不停地吸引新团客加入其中,正因如此,它才拼命地将投资者的注意力引到除去了营销收入的财务指标之上。高朋网在崛起的同时也诱生了强大的竞争对手Living Social和一群规模较小的新兴企业。这些竞争对手可能会以更低廉的价格挖走客户,也可能向零售商开出更优惠的条件,无一不对高朋网口中的肥肉构成威胁。

All this shows why setting an offering price for shares in an IPO is so tricky. “It’s more an art than a science,” says Paul Bard of Renaissance Capital, an IPO research firm in America. Investment banks are supposed to be masters of that art. But some people, such as Peter Thiel, a big early investor in Facebook and LinkedIn, have accused the banks involved in the LinkedIn transaction of drastically underpricing the shares.

以上种种,均说明了首次公开募股的报价是一门微妙的学问,“与其说是科学,不如说是艺术”,美国IPO研究机构复兴资本(Renaissance Capital)公司的保罗•巴德如此说道。投资银行向来被视为是这门艺术的行家,但包括脸谱和人脉网的主要早期投资者彼得•席尔在内的一些人,都对投资银行参与到人脉网的股票交易,将股票发行价大幅压低而诟病不已。

Bankers have sometimes been accused of underpricing deals so that their investment clients can make a swift killing on a firm’s shares. However in this case Mr Thiel’s gripe was that the banks failed to appreciate LinkedIn’s tremendous potential. Perhaps it never occurred to the bankers involved that people would pay so much for such a risky stock.

投资银行家有时会被指责刻意压低交易价格,以便其投资客户从购买的企业股票中大发横财。然而席尔先生的矛头这次仅针对投资银行未能意识到人脉网的巨大潜力。或许原因在于,参与投资的银行家永远都不会想到,人们竟然会为了这家风险重重的股票投入如此多的金钱。

Yet there is something to be said for erring on the side of caution when setting initial offer prices. Elizabeth Demers, a professor at INSEAD, a business school near Paris, points out that what companies lose in terms of hard cash in the early days can often be made up for in terms of the publicity they get when the news media applaud the explosive rise in their share prices. They can also launch secondary issues of other shares at the new price established by the IPO. Unless, of course, this really is a bubble, and it bursts.

在首次公开募股报价的时候,出于谨慎的考量而犯点错误是情有可原的。欧洲管理事务学院(INSEAD,巴黎附近的一家工商学院)的伊丽莎白•德默斯教授指出,企业创业早期在现金上的损失,通常能在日后新闻媒体对其股价爆发式增长的宣传和推崇中得到补偿。当然,除非IPO只是一个要破灭的泡沫,企业也可以在首次公开募股建立的股价基础上再次发行证劵。

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重点单词
  • scoopn. 铲子,舀取,独家新闻,一勺,穴 vt. 汲取,舀取
  • nagn. 小马,驽马,竞赛马 v. 不断地唠叨恼人,说话唠叨
  • fortunen. 财产,命运,运气
  • exchangen. 交换,兑换,交易所 v. 交换,兑换,交易
  • controversialadj. 引起争论的,有争议的
  • threateningadj. 威胁(性)的,凶兆的 动词threaten的现
  • gripen. 抱怨,抓牢 n. 肠绞痛 vt. 抓住,使 ...
  • transactionn. 交易,处理,办理,事务 (复)transactio
  • calculatedadj. 计算出的;适合的;有计划的 v. 计算;估计;
  • investorn. 投资者