SAN FRANCISCO — Square plans on pricing its initial public offering at between $11 and $13 a share, a conservative valuation that reflects Wall Street’s growing caution on technology debuts.
At the high end of that range, the mobile payments company founded and led by Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey would be valued at $4.2 billion, substantially lower than its most recent valuation of $6 billion by private investors.
The conservative valuation comes as cold winds have blown into the IPO market for technology companies that have valuations above what public investors are willing to pay.
Square belongs to a young batch of “unicorn” start-ups — the so-called billion-dollar start-up club — that may not be able to fetch the same rich private valuations they receive on the public markets. Some tech companies have wobbled on the public markets, others have decided to put IPO plans on hold.
“Square is coming out at a tough time. The last 12 months we have seen tech companies price at or, as in the Square case, below the last round of private funding,” said Manhattan Venture Partners chief economist Max Wolff. “Shares gap up on the opening day only to fall below offer price by the expiration of the 180-day lockup restriction. In short, private buyers have been more forgiving and optimistic about companies that lose money and grow as Wall Street, six years into a boom, demands profits.”
Square plans to raise $324 million in the offering. It could increase the price range if demand from investors is higher than expected.
The IPO will include about 27 million shares of the 323 million that will be outstanding after the offering. Square has set aside 4 million shares so Square could seek to raise an additional $400 million. Goldman Sachs is serving as lead underwriter.
Square’s last round of private funding guaranteed investors at least a 20% return on investment. If Square’s IPO price falls below $18.55, Square would have to issue shares to make up the difference.
Raising red flags for potential investors: Square has warned that the revenue growth rate will likely decline and that the company is unprofitable. In the third quarter, Square posted a net loss of $53.9 million on $332.2 million in revenue, showing slower revenue growth and swelling losses from a year ago.
Also unusual is the dual role of Dorsey in leading Square and Twitter. Dorsey was named CEO of Twitter last month. He had been serving in the role on an interim basis since July. Dorsey owns a 23.7% stake in the company.
The road show during which executives market the IPO to potential investors is expected to begin Monday and the public listing the week before Thanksgiving.
Square publicly filed for an IPO in October. It filed paperwork confidentially over the summer. It plans to list on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “SQ.”
Founded in 2009, Square broke into digital payments by offering small merchants a credit card reader that plugs into smartphones and tablets.
More than 2 million merchants use Square to process transactions each month and over the last year Square has processed more than $32.4 billion in total payments volume, the company says.
Square has also expanded beyond payments into other areas servicing small businesses such as a cash advance program. While that business has been successful so far, others have faltered or been shut down altogether.
“Square has headwinds that include a controversial and part-time CEO, a negative profit history and a past that includes many expensive attempts to roll out new business lines,” Wolff said. “I think Square represents the promise and risk of Silicon Valley well. Tons of possibility, some genuinely enabling early innovation and a track record of fairly expensive experimentation without matching profits.”
Read or Share this story: http://usat.ly/1NwT1bH