Qudian, Jianpu, and China Rapid Finance Feel the Pinch

It's been a rough go for the Chinese financial website operators and online platform providers that have gone public this year. There's been weakness in the shares of Qudian (NYSE: QD), Jianpu Technology (NYSE: JT), and China Rapid Finance (NYSE: XRF), three companies with entirely different models that weren't public when 2017 began.

The latest setback came last week with Reuters reporting that a Chinese government body is urging provincial governments to tighten the screen on new internet-based micro lenders. The ramifications would be different for Qudian, Jianpu, and China Rapid Finance, but investors are going to feel a bit uncomfortable when regulators are shaking up online-fueled financial tech stocks. Shares of Qudian, Jianpu, and China Rapid Finance have fallen 61%, 40%, and 39% respectively since peaking just a few weeks ago.

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China Rapid Finance runs a fast-growing consumer lending marketplace. It went public at $6 back in April, and while it's the only one of the three stocks currently trading above its IPO price, the stock has taken a beating since topping out last month.

Jianpu has only been public for two weeks, and while the shares initially moved above their $8 debutante price, it's been mostly downhill ever since. Jianpu has hit a lower intraday high than the day before for in each of its first eight trading days. It's a bad start for a consumer credit website operator that generates leads when visitors apply for loans or credit cards through its platform.

Qudian has been a roller coaster. It went public at $24 last month, topping $35 on its first day of trading before tumbling down the spiral staircase all the way down to the low teens. Qudian lets Chinese millennials buy smartphones, laptops, and other consumer electronics in monthly installments.

It's easy to see why all three companies could be in a world of hurt if the Chinese government is cracking down on consumer borrowing outlets, but it's not the only thing eating at Qudian. Last month's market darling has had a rough month. There have been unconfirmed reports of a data leak, and later this week Alipay -- accounting for roughly two-thirds of its facilitated loans -- will be capping the interest that can be charged at 24%. Qudian charges as much as 36% through its own hub, so the new cap will squeeze margins.

These are volatile times for China Rapid Finance, Qudian, and Jianpu, but chaos often breeds opportunity. All three companies are growing their businesses. Qudian is profitable, and China Rapid Finance expects to break even for the current quarter. There will be some big winners here once the dust settles, but also a few losers. Speculators are in the playground now, but the opportunities are there for risk-tolerant growth investors who can make sense of the chaos.

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