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China.com soars up 233 percent in IPO

Tech Industry

China.com Inc. (Nasdaq: CHINA) closed up 46 5/8, or 233 percent, to 66 5/8 Tuesday in its initial public offering. After pricing its 4.2 million-share offering at $20, the stock moved as high as 68 in early trading.

Lehman Brothers, the lead underwriter, bumped up the price range Monday from $14 to $16 to $17 to $19. By the time the stock hit the trading floor, it was priced at $20.

The IPO is expected to be strong as investors look at two growing markets -- China and the Internet -- and concluding that the company will be the next America Online (NYSE: AOL) or StarMedia (Nasdaq: STRM), the Latin American portal.

"This will be hot like StarMedia," said Randall Roth, an analyst with Renaissance Capital, who noted China.com's easy Web address and first mover advantage. The company will use its IPO riches for marketing and capital expenditures.

For 1998, China.com had sales of $3.45 million and a loss of $11 million.

Some of the Internet's top players hold stakes in the company -- AOL, Sun Microsystems Inc.(Nasdaq: SUNW), and 24/7 Media Inc.(Nasdaq: TFSM) AOL holds a 10 percent stake. 24/7's is about 9.5 percent. New World Infrastructure Ltd. owns 20 percent.

China.com operates four major Internet Web sites that offer Chinese and English language content and electronic mail.

In other IPO news, Commtouch Software Ltd. (Nasdaq: CTCH) closed up 8, or 50 percent, to 24 in its IPO. The stock priced at $16 Monday night. The original price range was $15 to $17.

Although email service providers such as Commtouch have struggled, the company is hoping to get an IPO bang courtesy of a recent deal with Go2Net (Nasdaq: GNET) and Paul Allen's Vulcan Ventures.

Go2Net and Vulcan Ventures said last week they plan to invest $20 million in Commtouch.

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