The Carlyle Group portfolio company Ctrip, a Chinese online travel agent specializing in intra-China travel, recently filed to go public. And observers say the fact that Ctrip is a dotcom and located in the birthplace of the SARS outbreak may be an indicator that the Asian market is making a comeback.
In a November round of fund raising, Ctrip gathered $11 million, $8 million of that from Carlyle in Series B preferred stock. Carlyle is the largest single shareholder in the company with 25.97% of the shares. Aside from Ctrip CFO Neil Shen, with 10.62% of the company’s shares, the largest remaining shareholders all hold less than 10% each.
Carlyle used Carlyle Asia Venture Partners I, a $159 million fund closed in 2000, for the Ctrip investment. The fund is fully invested, although the firm still has plenty of dry powder left in two other Asia-centric funds. Combined these two funds closed on nearly $1 billion in commitments with more than one-third of that total still available.
Ctrip plans to raise $60 million in the stock offering, and if approved by the SEC, will be listed on NASDAQ under the ticker symbol CTRP. Merrill Lynch is the underwriter.
Ctrip recorded revenue of $12 million in 2002, and $13.5 million for the nine months ended Sept. 30, 2003. The filing states the jump in revenue is due to the end of the SARS scare last year.
The company employs 1,400 people, and aggregates information on hotels and flights. Since it’s founding in 1999, Ctrip targets business and leisure travelers who don’t travel in groups.
While Ctrip is set to be Carlyle’s first Chinese IPO, it will be the firm’s second IPO in the Far East. On Oct. 2, Carlyle portfolio company eAccess, a Japan-based Internet access provider, went public. Prices skyrocketed more than 60% on the first day of trading. Carlyle’s original $26 million investment is now worth triple that amount.
What’s more, Ctrip isn’t the only Chinese dotcom planning an IPO. Baidu.com, a search engine, Tom.com, a Web portal, Joyo.com, an e-commerce company, and Shanghai Networking, an online games operator, are all planning IPOs in 2004 on NASDAQ.