What was supposed to be a big show of strength in the new-issues market fizzled Wednesday, bolstering concerns that the IPO craze of 2006 might have seen its best days. Despite a
marquee success in preppy retailer J. Crew ( JCG), the overall trend was disappointing as underwriters struggled to sell as many as seven initial public offerings. Three deals priced below their hoped-for range, while three others didn't get priced at all. "Looking at the past month, the fact that the majority have priced below the range makes you think the IPO market is softening in lockstep with the equity market," said Doug Lovett, equity analyst at Morningstar. "At the same time, we've seen a couple of IPOs withdrawn because companies weren't happy with the price." J. Crew was the notable exception Wednesday, its shares jumping nearly 25% on their first day of trading. The company priced 18.8 million initial shares at $20 apiece Tuesday night, topping the expected range of $15 to $17 a share and raising about $376 million for itself and its private-equity backers. The offering cut the ownership stake of major shareholder Texas Pacific to about 40% from just above 50%. By late morning, the stock had shot up $4.92 to $24.92, with more than 15 million shares changing hands. But other deals had more trouble. Three of the companies that priced IPOs Tuesday night cut their offering price -- in one case by more than 30%. PGT ( PGTI) originally anticipated pricing between $16 to $18 a share, but ended up going out at $14. Meanwhile, Omniture ( OMTR) priced at $6.50 per share, below the $7.50 to $9 a share range. Replidyne ( RDYN) issued shares at $10 a share, $4 below the lowest range of its $14 to $16 price.
Moreover, the price cuts didn't prove sufficient to coax many buyers into shares of two of the three. Omniture was recently down 34 cents, or 5.2%, to $6.16, while Replidyne was flat at $10. J. Crew helped lift fellow retailer PGTI, however, and shares were up $1.20, or 8.6%, to $15.20. "The overall tone in the IPO market now is not very good," Lovett says. Equity offerings are facing an uncertain market during a time of year that is usually welcoming. Historically, the week before the July 4 holiday hosts multiple IPOs as issuers try to squeeze in deals before the lulls in July and August. This year is different. The equity market is especially uncertain this week as Wall Street waits for an interest-rate decision from the Federal Reserve, due Thursday. The decision and accompanying policy statement are viewed as pivotal to market sentiment after the correction of the past month and a half. Meanwhile, the action in the broader market Tuesday didn't help the IPO hopefuls. Stocks had their biggest drop in three weeks during the session, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing 1.09%, the S&P 500 falling 0.91% and the Nasdaq Composite plunging 1.57%. As a result, some companies slated to price yesterday decided to wait for another day. Wintegra ( WNTG) cut the size of its IPO on Tuesday to 4.89 million shares, down from 5 million shares, and has reportedly delayed the deal. That's after the company cut its IPO price by $2 on June 9. Gordon Biersch ( BIER) cut its IPO price to $10 to $12 a share, from $11 to $13, although it still plans on pricing this week. Pacesetter Capital is also slated to price later this week, and the market will also be closely watching Aventine Renewable Energy, which is expected to price after the close Wednesday.