By Stephen Nellis and Nivedita Bhattacharjee
(Reuters) - Music streaming service Spotify on Wednesday filed for a direct listing of its shares, taking an unusual path to the U.S. public markets for a large company.
A direct listing will let Spotify list existing shares, owned by its investors and employees, without raising new capital or hiring a Wall Street bank or broker to underwrite the offering.
The company did not specify a listing price for its shares in the filing or say how much it would list. It is valued at roughly $19 billion according to Reuters calculations based on the filing.
Spotify, launched in 2008 and available in more than 60 countries, is the biggest music streaming company in the world and counts services from Apple Inc and Amazon.com Inc as its main rivals.
Revenue for Spotify was 4.09 billion euros (3.62 billion pounds) in 2017, up from 2.95 billion euros a year earlier, the company said in the filing. Its operating loss widened to 378 million euros in 2017 from 349 million euros a year earlier.
Its net loss however ballooned 129 percent in 2017, driven mostly by on-paper financing costs related to a 2016 deal in which Sweden-based Spotify raised $1 billion in debt that would convert to shares upon an initial public offering. In its filing, the company said it has 71 million premium subscribers and about 159 million monthly average users.
Apple Music launched in 2015 and has 36 million paying subscribers and Amazon Music Unlimited has 16 million paying subscribers. Pandora Media Inc has 5.48 million total subscribers, according to the company.
Spotify's premium subscription costs $9.99 a month. Apple Music charges the same but offers a three-month free trial. Unlike Spotify, Apple does not have an advertising-based free service.
"With our ad-supported service, we believe there is a large opportunity to grow users and gain market share from traditional terrestrial radio," Spotify said.
The company is valued at between $16.8 billion and $22.5 billion, based on recent ordinary share prices between $95 and $127.50 in the private markets in February and 178 billion shares estimated outstanding by the end of February, according to its filing.
The company is seeking to list its ordinary shares on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol "SPOT." http://bit.ly/2F0OfCU
In December, Spotify and the music arm of China's Tencent Holdings Ltd said they would buy minority stakes in each other.
According to Spotify's filings, that exchange was part of a larger series of deals with its note holders that would allow a direct listing instead of a public offering satisfy the conditions of its convertible debt. Tencent agreed not to transfer its shares for three years.
That deal helps Spotify, a music streaming leader in Europe and North America, and China-focused Tencent Music, to increase exposure to each other's core markets.
Besides saving hundreds of millions of dollars in underwriting fees, a direct listing frees company insiders from any lockup period restricting them from selling their shares following the listing.
A direct listing does not dilute ownership as would happen with a conventional initial public offering.
($1 = 0.8191 euros)
(Reporting by Nikhil Subba and Nivedita Bhattacharjee in Bengaluru, Stephen Nellis in San Francisco and Greg Roumeliotis and Jessica Toonkel in New York; Editing by Peter Henderson and Meredith Mazzilli)