Breakout on Horizon for NetQin?

02/10/2012 8:45 am EST

Focus: GLOBAL

Paul Goodwin

Emerging Markets Specialist and Analyst, Cabot Heritage Corporation

Malware, cybersecurity, and viruses affect everyone, everywhere, so don’t just look to US when looking for information security firms with big potential, writes Paul Goodwin of Cabot China & Emerging Markets Report.

I used to work for a company that (among other things) helped to find names for new companies. So I’m always sensitive to cycles of naming strategies, as it seems that companies looking for a name that communicates their dynamism or their tech savvy go through phases.

It occurred to me a while back that I hadn’t seen any new businesses using "works" in their names any more. That seemed odd, because it used to be one of the most popular suffixes for any business trying to give itself a slightly industrial, artisanal feel. Heck, I even used to work at a small business that was part of the tide (Cineworks, a small film and video production company).

There is still a Boston Beer Works, and a PrintWorks, and a Bavarian Auto Works, and a Body Works gym, etc. But it’s not a name out there on the cutting edge any more. I realized that the whole "works" thing had been dead for years, and that naming had been through at least two generations before I noticed.

Some time after the "works" era, there was the "X" and "Z" era with its implications of Xperimental and Xtreme and a letter that was made hip by Zorro. The X reached back to both X-rays and the X- series of aircraft and the Z is the last letter, so presumably is also the last word in hipness.

So, for a while we had the Xbox, the X-Games, and the X-treme everything or the Camaro Z28 . Sometimes the X hung out with a Z, as in the Kawasaki ZX series of motorcycles or the Mazda ZX7. You can’t be too hip, after all.

Right now, of course, we’re in the "i" era, as in the iPhone, iPod, iPad, iTunes, and iMac. And there is a real flood of businesses that don’t have anything to do with computers that are tacking that little lower-case vowel on the front of their names.

Ironically, Apple itself is harking back to an earlier era with its iWork software. Here comes that work thing again.

I guess the really great naming strategies never die. They just go through a renewal and recycling period and emerge again, eventually, newly hip and full of dynamic meaning. Or seeming to.

That brings us to the name (and stock game) in Asia. As the popularity of mobile phones swelled in China back in the 2000s, so did the temptation on the part of hackers to start spamming and stealing data.

So, in accord with the law that says a big need will sooner or later spawn a solution, NetQin (NQ) sprang into existence in 2005. The company specializes in software for mobile devices that protects them from malware and data theft, and the recent results have been spectacular.

The company booked its first profit in the first quarter of 2010, and its three latest quarters have featured earnings growth of 600% (Q1 2011), 800%, and 275% (Q3 2011). Revenues, meanwhile, have recorded seven quarters of triple-digit growth.

The company is adding data synchronization and cloud services to its roster, which should prove appealing to consumers.

But the real change that has attracted my attention is the company’s hiring of Omar Khan to serve as co-CEO with Chairman and CEO Dr. Henry Lin. Khan arrives from Citigroup (C), where he headed the company’s mobile development and delivery campaign. Before that, he was a key player at Samsung Mobile and Motorola. Khan is an MIT grad with "mover and shaker" written all over him.

Khan’s significance lies with NetQin’s global expansion program, which is targeting North and South America, Europe, Japan, Korea, and India. All of these areas are heavy mobile usage zones, and the attractiveness of NetQin’s services could prove substantial.

The company will be rebranding itself NQ Mobile for international purposes, just so consumers won’t have to suffer through puzzling out the Chinese name (which is pronounced Net Chin).

NQ came public in May, and quickly drooped from its IPO price of $11.50 to as low as $3 in early October. The action since then has been wild and wooly, but January brought a wave of high-volume buying that pushed the stock back to $8 before it calmed down and put in a tight two-week base at $7. The hiring news is igniting interest again.

NQ is still pretty speculative, trading at a thin 225,000 shares a day and showing some big volatility. But it’s also a big story, and one that could become attractive to many institutional investors once the stock cracks into double figures. I have it on my watch list, and I think it would pay you to give it a look-see.

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