China’s Social Network RenRen is no Facebook

An article in Forbes compares Facebook, which is set to launch in China, to Renren, the Chinese equivalent:

For starters, Goldman Sachs estimates Facebook is worth $50 billion worldwide. RenRen, which is hoping to beat Facebook and become the world’s first social network to list on a stock exchange, is hoping to raise a half a billion in the offer. But one thing is for sure, judging by RenRen’s first quarter earnings, China’s social network is very much a small cap company. It might have a ton of upside, but right now, these guys are small time.

[…] Here’s the good news for RenRen IPO hopefuls, the company is cash rich and debt free. It reported net cash of $334.8 million, plus $44.5 million in short-term investments. That cash has led RenRen’s Wall Street underwriters like Morgan Stanley valueing RenRen at $4.3 billion. When it gets inflows from equity investors, RenRen is seen being able to take off and be the Baidu of Chinese social networking.

But wait…here’s the bad news, and very bad news potentially. Facebook is in talks with Baidu to launch Facebook in China. Facebook has been banned in China since 2009. (Google’s been out of China since late 2010.) Facebook wants back in, but RenRen and its underwriters probably do not. Facebook would have to do what Google was unwilling to do: kowtow to the Chinese government censors.