On June 6, iSoftStone announced plans to make the company a wholly owned subsidiary of China Asset Management Co., Ltdand delist from the U.S. stock market. This is the fifth IT services (ITS) provider headquartered in China to announce plans to go private in the past 9 months. The others were Yucheng Technology, AsiaInfo-Linkage, Camelot and Pactera.
Why are these firms going private? Despite ambitious global growth plans, Chinese ITS providers have largely failed to articulate a compelling value proposition to U.S. and European clients. By focusing mainly on low-end application development services they have instead primarily competed with much bigger and much more experienced Indian providers – but without the ability to offer lower costs. In fact, the average profitability of Chinese ITS providerswent down from 10-15% to less than 5% over the past 2 years, when most large Indian firms are in the 15-25% range. Going private will give these5companies a chance to transform their current model relieved from the quarterly pressure to meet Wall Street analyst expectations.
Existing and potential customers of these ITS providers may have concerns seeing these providers going private, particularly regarding overall company transparency, including financial strength and corporate governance. I believe clients will have to balance their concerns against the potential benefits that going private may deliver, which include: