By Perry Wu
So what's a company to do? Your stock price is heading deeper into the toilet by the day, your CEO just left the company, and you're fast becoming a poster child of management ineptitude. This is where Chinadotcom (CHINA) finds itself these days.
Founded and funded in the glory days of the Internet boom of the 90s, the company has been on an acquisition craze for the last few years. Problem is, virtually none of the acquisitions seems to have worked out. Investors have now figured it out, and with no help on the horizon, the company's market value has been on a steady road to perdition.
What does Chinadotcom see as the source of its problems? Well, it's the name of course. A few days ago, the company issued a press release saying that it had decided to change its name from Chinadotcom to the "CDC" corporation. Dr. Raymond Ch'ien, Executive Chairman & CEO of chinadotcom corporation said, "The rebranding initiatives are strategically significant for us…"
I will not insult the reader with such platitudes as "what's in a name?" because the preposterousness of this name change stands on its own for all to see, considering the real management problems that Chinadotcom has had. This company used to have hundreds of millions of US dollars (and still has some left) but used the money to buy everything in sight, without regard to what it was really buying. There was no discernible strategy for its acquisitions: a CRM company here, a web portal there, an SMS wireless business. Like a spoiled rich kid, whatever management felt like on a particular day it seems to have purchased.
And the funny thing is, in America, CDC is also the well-known acronym for the Centers for Disease Control. Perhaps this is an appropriate name for such a sick company.
"Corporate raiders" is the unfriendly title attached to uninvited investors buying control of public companies. In America, investors such as Carl Icahn and buyout firms such as Kohlberg, Kravis, Roberts are frequently referred to by this title. And in Asia, Oei Hong Leong made a name for himself by buying out companies in the 90s (albeit unsuccessfully).
But is it fair to call such investors by such an unfriendly title? No, and Chinadotcom is a textbook example of why "raiders" are so vital for the prosperity of a market-based economy. If only an unfriendly "raider" had come in to buy out Chinadotcom a couple of years when Chinadotcom still had all that IPO cash that it has since largely squandered on acquisitions. The "raider" could have thrown out the management of the company and actually maybe have put the company's cash to good use (you could hardly do worse than Chinadotcom's management did).
Chinadotcom needs more than a name change. This company needs someone from the outside to boot the group of people running the company who call themselves "managers". And that would be worth far more than a new name.
About the author:
Perry Wu is a writer and correspondent for ChinaTechNews.com and can be reached here at the site. Perry Wu does not hold any positions, long or short, on any of the Chinese or American company securities mentioned in this article.