Snap's shares pop after $3.4 billion IPO

By Lauren Hirsch
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Snap cofounders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy ring the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) with NYSE Group President Thomas Farley shortly before the company's IPO in New York

Snap cofounders Evan Spiegel (C) and Bobby Murphy ring the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange with NYSE Group President Thomas Farley. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

By Lauren Hirsch

(Reuters) - Snap Inc's shares continued to defy doubts about the company's early-stage business model and slowing user growth, jumping nearly 50 percent in their first day of trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

The owner of the Snapchat messaging app raised $3.4 billion in its initial public offering on Wednesday night, more than the $3 billion Facebook offered to pay for the company in 2013, and saw its market capitalization bubble up to as much as $29.1 billion.

With a full greenshoe option to issue more shares likely to be exercised, the company is poised to increase its deal size to $3.9 billion.

Snap co-founder Evan Spiegel, who earned $272 million on the offering, showed up to the floor of the exchange in a suit and tie to ring the opening bell before leaving the building to watch festivities away from the spotlight he famously eschews.

Among the traders on the floor, men and women carried the company's "Spectacles" video-camera glasses as well as stuffed versions of Snap's smiling ghost mascot.

The IPO has tested investor appetite for a social media app that is popular among people under 30 for applying bunny faces and vomiting rainbows onto selfies, but has yet to convert "cool" into cash.

Despite a nearly seven-fold increase in revenue, Los Angeles-based Snap's net loss widened 38 percent last year. It faces intense competition from larger rivals such as Facebook's Instagram as it grapples with decelerating user growth.

Snap began trading into a market with keen hunger. The book was more than 10 times oversubscribed and Snap could have priced the IPO at as much as $19 a share, but the company wanted to focus on securing mutual funds as long-term investors rather than hedge funds looking to quickly sell, a source familiar with the matter said.

Underwriters often price their IPOs below demand in order to ensure a first day spike.

Such a pop, though positive for a company's momentum, does not ensure long-term success. Shares of social media company Twitter Inc surged 93 percent when it first opened on the New York Stock Exchange in 2013, but are now trading at $15.84, down nearly 40 percent from its $26 IPO price and nearly 70 percent from its opening price of $50.09.

The New York Stock Exchange carried out a trial run last week to make sure the third-biggest technology IPO ever went smoothly. Nasdaq Inc received intense criticism for botching Facebook's 2012 IPO when its technology was unprepared for the level of demand for the shares.

Emphasizing the importance of the Snap IPO to NYSE, Jeffrey Sprecher, chief executive of NYSE's owner, Intercontinental Exchange Inc , stood in front of the trading post to monitor the hours-long pricing process.

ANIMAL SPIRITS

Snap's offering was well timed, with investors clamouring for fresh opportunities after 2016 marked the slowest year for tech IPOs since 2008. The broader market has also been buoyed in the months following the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, with the benchmark S&P 500 <.SPX> surging 10 percent since the Nov. 8 election amid optimism around the Republican administration's domestic proposals, including plans to reform taxes paid by businesses.

"The environment is terrific. Animal spirits are running through the streets here. What better time to price,” said Stephen Massocca, senior vice president at Wedbush Securities.

The launch could encourage debuts by other so-called unicorns, tech startups with private valuations of $1 billion or more.

Investors bought the shares despite them offering no voting power, an unprecedented feature for an IPO at odds with rising concerns about corporate governance from fund managers looking to gain influence over executives.

To justify its relatively high valuation and fend off concerns about slowing user growth, Snap has emphasized how important Snapchat is to its users, how long they spend on the app and the revenue potential of the emerging trend for young people to communicate with video rather than text.

(Additional reporting by Lance Tupper and John McCrank in New York)

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