Within less than 12 hours, LoanDepot Inc., a fast-growing mortgage lender, aborted its plan to go public and Fitbit Inc., the maker of wearable devices, priced a secondary offering below the previous day’s close.
The stumbles don’t bode well for high-growth companies that are planning to sell shares to the public soon, including Square Inc., the mobile-payments service led by Twitter Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey.
“Investors are likely not too keen on tech deals right now," said Tom Taulli, an independent IPO expert. “Probably not a good sign for Square.”
U.S. equity markets have been unforgiving in the past month for companies seeking to go public -- even Ferrari NV is now trading below its initial public offering price after debuting at the high end of its range. Last month, three U.S. offerings faltered within about a week, with Digicel Group Ltd. canceling a sale, First Data Corp. pricing shares below a marketed range and Albertsons Cos. postponing its offering.
Square is expected to price Nov. 18. Technology firms in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index have risen about 3.7% this year through today’s trading, compared with an 18% climb in 2014.
LoanDepot, backed by private-equity investor Parthenon Capital Partners, cited market conditions Thursday night when it canceled plans to sell as much as $540 million of stock to the public, hours before it was scheduled to set a price. Meanwhile Fitbit, which had an IPO in June, will offer 3 million shares instead of the 7 million it previously planned in its secondary share sale, according to a filing Friday. The number of shares sold by existing stockholders remains unchanged at 14 million. The price of the offering, $29, is 8.5% lower than Thursday’s close, sending the stock tanking as much as 14%.
“Investors’ appetites for high-priced, young tech companies is declining, doubly so for companies whose insiders are cashing out, and triply so for companies that reduce the portion of an offering going to the company in order for insiders to cash out more,” Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, said in an e-mail.
A spokeswoman for San Francisco-based Square declined to comment as the company is in a quiet period. The payment- services provider said last week that it was aiming for a market valuation of as much as $4.2 billion in its IPO as it markets shares to investors at range of $11 to $13 apiece. That’s well short of the $15.46 a share when the company sold stock to investors in its last private funding round, which fetched a $6 billion valuation. The gap underscores the challenge for high- profile startups that reach lofty valuations they enjoyed while private.