Despite Market Meltdown, Women.com Goes Public and Gets a Warm Welcome

Patience seems to have paid off for the all-women portal, which delayed its IPO in August's sluggish market.
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For Women.com (WOMN) - Get Report, patience proved to be a virtue.

But it could have turned into a big disaster. The all-women-all-the-time Web portal priced last night at $10 and started trading today, even though the market was under extreme pressure. However, it opened at 13 1/8 and headed to a high of 23 3/8, before closing at 18 1/2, up 85% from the offering price.

Only two months ago, the fate of the company wasn't so rosy.

In August, the stock was expected to price between $10 and $12, but the lowered expectations this time may have helped it get its first-day pop, analysts say. "A $10 stock out of

Morgan Stanley

can only do one thing: go up," says Vincent Slavin, a sales trader who tracks IPOs for

Cantor Fitzgerald

. It helped that Morgan Stanley was on board. "From what I understand,

Mary Meeker

Morgan Stanley's top Internet analyst was driving the bus of the roadshow," Slavin adds. Meeker did not return calls for comment.

Women.com was all set to hit the public markets at the beginning of August, but the IPO market dried up. During the week that Women.com was due to be priced, four IPOs, including those of online video store

BigStar Entertainment

(BGST)

, network services provider

Splitrock Services

(SPLT)

and insurance resource databank

Quotesmith.com

(QUOT) - Get Report

, all tanked. Even the high and mighty

Goldman Sachs

couldn't keep

1-800-Flowers.com

(FLWS) - Get Report

, a highly anticipated IPO, from wilting. Goldman Sachs was the lead underwriter for the deal.

Amid the August nervousness, Women.com, backed by Morgan Stanley,

Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown

and

Salomon Smith Barney

, pulled its offering.

Shortly after the postponement, the Internet traffic tracker

Media Metrix

announced its July rankings. Women.com's main rival,

iVillage.com

(IVIL)

, narrowly edged out Women.com from the No. 1 spot, garnering 5 million unique visitors to Women.com's 4.75 million unique visitors. iVillage fell 1 15/16 to 30 7/16 in trading Friday.

Women.com, like most other Net companies, is swimming in debt and sorely needed to tap the public markets. In a preliminary prospectus filed with the

Securities and Exchange Commission

in July, Women.com reported accumulated debt of $39.1 million. In subsequent filings to the SEC, the company reported a $33.4 million net loss on $9.7 million in net revenue for the six months ended June 30 and accumulated debt of $56.6 million.

But as Women.com prepared to get out of the gate this week, conditions didn't look much better than they did back in August. This week featured a series of mediocre offerings, including financial services firm

ReSourcePhoenix.com

(RPCX)

and music site

NetRadio

(NETR:Nasdaq), both of which closed below their offering prices.

But patience paid off. Despite a dismal day for the market, investors were still hungry for IPOs. This week, only seven other IPOs hit the market, and Women.com's offering was conveniently sandwiched between recent hot infrastructure companies that have debuted since the IPO market gained steam at the end of September and the much-awaited

World Wrestling Federation

and

Martha Stewart Omnimedia

IPOs, due next week.

Women.com spokeswomen declined to comment, as the company is in its quiet period.