A handful of new issues drew tepid reactions from investors Thursday after testing the waters in the aftermath of the three-week fall of the
stock market that sent many IPOs into hiding.
These results come one week before
initiates its $11.5 billion initial public offering of the tracking stock of its
, an e-commerce software company, and
, a fiber optic network business, were the biggest winners among the new issues Thursday, but they climbed modestly when compared with their predecessors in the IPO market.
Shares of San Francisco-based Embarcadero rose 6 points, or 60%, to close at 16 on its first day, but that was considerably weaker than the performance of e-commerce software maker
, which more than
tripled in its first day of trading in late January.
Likewise, shares of Vancouver-based 360 Networks rose 5 points, or 36%, to close at 19, but that gain not in the same class as the one posted by
Quantum Effect Devices
rose 187% in February.
The three other debuts on Thursday finished the day below their offering prices.
Insititutional investors were leery of companies going public amid the roller coaster Nasdaq market.
In fact, with the exception of one company, all of the IPOs priced below their expected range, from institutional investors backing away. Perhaps the most egregious example of the waning enthusiasm for IPOs came from
, a technology services company that had hoped to offer six million shares in a price range of $12 to $14 but settled for 3.5 million shares at a price of $9 apiece. The company based in Fairfax, Va. would have raised $90 million under better circumstances but took home one-third of that amount in Thursday's tenuous market. The stock closed at its opening price of 9.
"It just shows you that this is not the time to be going public," said Gail Bronson, a senior analyst at IPO Monitor, an IPO research firm. "The optimal time to go public is in a very sound foundation. This ain't it. I can only presume that they went public because they needed cash, or they were forced out by their backers, or they just decided to take the risk."
, a life sciences equipment company from Meriden, Conn., rose 1/8 from its offering price of $9, but initially filed to sell those shares for almost twice as much.
, a car stereo manufacturer and the only issue that did not price below its expected range, closed where it started at $11 a share.
Market timing in the IPO universe can often mean millions of dollars difference raised between companies with similar businesses. Venture capitalists and institutional bankers know that new issues usually perform best when the broader market shows strength. In the past three weeks, seven IPOs have been withdrawn, as the tenuous Nasdaq market has made the prospect of coming public considerably more risky.
"The Nasdaq certainly has had an effect on technology companies," said Charles J. Kaplan, president of
, a financial adviser firm. "When the broad market catches a cold, the IPO market catches pneumonia. I'm even surprised that anything priced today. The reason is that these companies needed money and they didn't time the IPO right."
Some analysts say this market weakness could cast a shadow over the huge AT&T Wireless tracking stock offering expected next Thursday. "Since last Friday, I have been telling my clients that this is going to hurt the IPO market for at least a month," Kaplan said.
He wouldn't venture a guess about what might happen during the AT&T Wireless offering, but Kaplan is advising his clients not to buy it. "It's a tracking stock," he said. "If your going to own something, then own something. With a tracking stock you don't own anything."
Generally, a company takes its subsidiary that's in a hotter industry segment than the parent, and issues stock in the company. The company gives shares to existing shareholders or offers it to the public through an IPO. The tracking stock carries no voting rights and is not tied to the company's assets. An investor in the tracking stock can profit if the stock rises but has no vote in the direction of the company.
AT&T Wireless is looking to sell 360 million shares of the tracking stock at a price of $24 to $32 a share. Lead underwriter
is, no doubt, watching closely Thursday's results.