Feeling a bit down at having missed out on LinkedIn Corp.'s initial public offering? The shares more than doubled in early trading on Thursday, feeding mixed feelings of regret (I should have bought!) and revulsion (it's a bubble; I wouldn't go near it!). Thing is, as far as first day pops go, the doubling of the share price is actually fairly modest compared to the extremes we saw in the 1990s.
The Wall Street Journal dug out this gem from 1998: TheGlobe.com. No, that's not a reference to the venerable Canadian newspaper I work for, but rather an Internet "community site" that allowed people to create their own web pages.
Apparently, it also holds the record for biggest one-day price jump following an IPO, when the shares surged from an opening price of $9 (U.S.) to a closing price of $63.50 - a 600 per cent gain.
TheGlobe.com wasn't particularly unusual though. When MarketWatch.com went public in 1999, its shares surged from $17 to a closing price of $97.50 - 470 per cent gain. Earlier in that first day of trading, it had risen seven-fold.
These were absurd days, of course, defined now as the peak of the dot-com bubble that subsequently popped. TheGlobe.com no longer exists and MarketWatch was bought by Dow Jones in 2005 for $18 a share, or a buck above its IPO price. In more sober times for IPOs, Google Inc. debuted at $85 in 2004 and rose 18 per cent on its first day - enough to generate headlines, but not enough to look wacky.
The interesting part about Google since then is that the shares have risen fairly steady rather than with an initial burst of exuberance, followed by panic-selling. The shares rose to a record high of $741 in 2007 - more than three years into its life as a public company - and today trades at $535, or more than six-times their IPO price. Investors who missed out on the IPO could have bought, and profited from, Google shares any number of times over the past seven years.
Some commentators are now saying that the underwriters messed up when they priced LinkedIn shares at $45 on Thursday morning. They should have priced them higher in anticipation of investor appetite, or so the argument goes.
Was there a similar reaction to TheGlobe.com and MarketWatch? Maybe. But in retrospect this criticism would have been out of place.