China’s answer to Twitter planning a U.S. IPO of its own

Sina Weibo, the Chinese social network that looks and works a lot like Twitter, has started the process of going public in the United States. The micro-blogging platform is looking to raise up to $500 million in an initial public offering, though as with any IPO this is subject to change. Twitter itself began trading as a public company back in November.

Weibo is smaller than Twitter, with 129 million monthly active users compared with 241 million for the U.S. outfit, though it is some three years younger. Like Twitter, Weibo is battling to keep users interested in the face of growing competition from one-to-one instant messaging services that offer more immediacy and more privacy. While the site is still growing and bringing in more money year-on-year, its owners continue to experiment with ways to effectively monetize users.

There are words of warning for investors in Weibo’s IPO filing about the implications of China’s heavy-handed approach to Internet regulation. Still, Sina Corp believes that its service has enough momentum to attract a strong following on the back of similar launches for Facebook and Twitter. Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse have been hired to handle the U.S. debut, which is designed to retain talent and boost its international visibility.

Sina Weibo is not the only Chinese company looking to go public in the U.S. in the near future — ecommerce companies Alibaba (which owns a stake in Weibo) and are also planning launches. It’s further evidence of an increasingly global marketplace for apps and services, and the IPOs on the table should help these Chinese services gain more recognition in the United States and beyond.

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