5 Best IPOs of 2011

NEW YORK ( TheStreet -- 2011 was a dismal year for IPOs.

Volume totaled 330 deals, down 30% from 2010, and the average return was a negative 10.3%, according to Renaissance Capital. Activity dried up at the end of summer as the Europe's sovereign debt crisis took hold.

One sector that was well-represented though was the Internet with 24 companies making their public debuts, the most in 10 years. While that number is definitely a huge drop from 1999's 212 offerings, it's still double the 11 deals launched in 2010.

Some of the biggest deals were net-related with Bankrate ( RATE), Groupon ( GRPN), Zynga ( ZNGA) and LinkedIn ( LNKD) raising $2.4 billion alone. The technology sector led on volume with 44 companies going public.

Private equity-backed IPOs were prominent as well, raising more than $20 billion on just 35 deals.

Even though the economy continued to struggle with unemployment, retailers and consumer stock offerings were some of the best performers in the aftermarket. Fashion house Michael Kors ( KORS) got off to a great start as did specialty tea chain Teavana ( TEA) and retailer Francescas ( FRAN).

Here are the top five IPOs of 2011.

GNC Holdings -- up 81%

Vitamin retailer GNC Holdings ( GNC) priced 22.5 million common shares at $16 each in late March, raising $360 million. The stock closed Thursday at $29.19.

The pricing was at the midpoint of the expected range. Apollo Global Management had previously tried to take GNC public twice and then finally sold it to Ares Management and the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan Board.

GNC offered new shareholders increasing earnings and revenue, delivering net income of $48.7 million on revenue of $538 million in its fiscal third quarter, up from year-ago earnings of $26.7 million on revenue of $465.7 million.

Imperva -- up 80%

Imperva ( IMPV) took off as soon as it was public. The data security company priced its offering of 5 million shares on Nov. 8 at $18 each, raising $90 million. The stock opened on its first day of trading at $23, and closed Thursday at $34.12.

Investors are taking a bit of a chance on Imperva because the company has never been profitable but the buzz on the stock is based on its rising topline growth as revenue jumped more than 40% year-over-year in the first nine months of 2011.

Timing was also on Imperva's side as the company's IPO followed closely behind Groupon, and the company has won awards for its products that protect high-value data from hackers.

Tesoro Logistics -- up 60%

Energy offerings were big winners for investors in 2011 and Tesoro ( TLLP) delivered handsome returns for its new shareholders.

The company, a spin-off from Tesoro ( TSO), priced 13 million limited-partnership unit at $21 each in mid-April, raising $273 million. Tesoro's plans for the proceeds include using $100 million for projects over the next two years that include the purchase an oil terminal. The units closed Thursday at $33.12

The San Antonio, Texas-based company's annual dividend payout is at $1.40, giving it a forward yield of 4.2% at current levels.

Tangoe -- up 45%

Tangoe ( TNGO) went public in late July, selling 7.5 million shares at $10 each, raising $88 million. The stock closed Thursday at $14.81.

The company, which has yet to turn a profit, provides software that determines the lifecycle of telecom assets and services and helps companies manage these costs. Investors are bullish though because revenue growth is robust, totaling $27.3 million in its fiscal third quarter, a year-over-year increase of nearly 60%.

Wall Street is already on board with the five analysts covering the stock split between strong buy (3) and buy (2), and the median price target sitting at $17, implying potential upside of nearly 15% from current levels.

ServiceSource -- up 57%

ServiceSource ( SREV) debuted in late March, pricing 11.9 million shares at $10 each, above a projected range of $7.50 to $9 each, to raise $119 million. The stock closed Thursday at $15.84.

The San Francisco-based maker of revenue-management software applications is enjoying some benefit from its association with the cloud after SAP paid a 52% premium for SuccessFactors ( SFSF).

ServiceSource helps companies manage maintenance, support and subscription agreements for tech companies. For the third quarter ended Oct. 31, the company posted non-GAAP earnings of $1.1 million, or a penny per share, on revenue of $50.1 million, up more than 30% year-over-year.

>>To see these stocks in action, visit the 5 Best IPOs of 2011 portfolio on Stockpickr.

-- Written by Debra Borchardt in New York.

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