There was lots of chatter on Tuesday over the surging demand among investors to get in on the ground floor of LinkedIn Corp.'s initial public offering, after the professional networking site boosted the price range by an amazing 30 per cent. Now, the company has priced its shares at $42 to $45 (U.S.) - up $10 from an earlier range.
At the new price, LinkedIn is valued as high as $4.25-billion, which has some observers wondering if the price is a bit steep for a company that earned just $15.4-million last year. Indeed, the Wall Street Journal's Deal Journal found that the price hike was the biggest pre-IPO bump since the dying dot-com days in 2000.
Still, the 30 per cent increase looks relatively mild compared to some of the more outrageous examples seen back then. According to Dealogic, Palm Inc.'s IPO price jumped more than 100 per cent, while Selectica Inc.'s rose 140 per cent.
Neither of those IPOs worked well for long-term investors, which of course has some observers wondering if LinkedIn's IPO reflects a similar frothiness among networking stocks. A recent deal that allowed private investors to buy a piece of Facebook Inc. valued that company at an astounding $50-billion.
Eric Jackson at Forbes (via Joshua Brown) outlines some of the concerns about LinkedIn. Among them: "Many others are starting to come after this niche, including Salesforce (CRM) with their Chatter product and Twitter and Facebook could always try to professionalize part of their service."
And: "Profitability really took a hit in the last year as LinkedIn more than doubled its spending on sales and marketing, product development, and general and administration. That wiped out most of their operating income, which was only running at 8 per cent in 2010. This lack of profitability speaks to the biggest problem for the company, which is the lack (so far) of a killer central way they make money. Most use it for free."
My colleague David Milstead outlined similar concerns - not to mention the nosebleed valuation - in his own Globe column on Tuesday. If he didn't like the IPO at $35 a share, he's probably not keen on it at $45 either.
Clearly, somebody out there sees a bargain in LinkIn. Let's hope they're not the same people that scooped up Palm and Selectica.