Zynga’s first trading day (Dec. 16, 2011)

Credit: Zynga (Dec. 16, 2011)

By Xavier Forneris

In a previous post, on Dec. 13, I talked about the question of valuation for social media and other internet businesses. In that post I mentioned the imminent IPO by Zynga, maker of games for Facebook such as “Farm Ville” or “Mafia Wars”. Today was Zinga’s first trading day and I wanted to provide a follow-up on this. So how did it go?

Well, on the one hand, Zynga met its objectives which was to raise $1 billion through its initial public offering. It sold 100 million shares at a price of $10 each, i.e., at the top of the $8.50 to $10 range that was expected. But, on the other hand, after an early surge to $11.50 the share price (listed on NASDAQ under the symbol ZNGA) fell and closed at $9.50, or 5 percent less than the initial price. This was also in sharp contrast with LinkedIn’s first trading day after its own IPO, closing at $122.90 from a starting price of $45 per share.

Although the IPO gives Zynga a $7 bn valuation, the drop was significant but not entirely surprising: shares in Japan-based Nexon, which also makes games for Facebook platform and went public earlier, have already registered a 15 percent drop since Nexon’s flotation. The questions thus remain “are the valuations justified; are shareholders paying too much?” Zynga’s valuation of $7 bn represents a multiple of 6.8 times in relation to its annual revenue (for the 12-month period ending Sept. 30). In comparison the market capitalization of Electronic Arts, maker of games for mobile devices, was $6.9 bn on 12/15/2011 but this only represents about 1.8 times its one-year sales. Why does one have a multiple three times that of the other, when these firms seem fairly similar? Do investors have reason to believe that Zynga’s growth potential is three times bigger than Electronic Arts’?

Another way to answer the “Are investors paying too much?” question is to look at the stock price of companies operating in the same “social space”. Interesting data on this was offered in a Bloomberg Business Week piece on Zynga’s IPO also published today. The article quotes Kevin Pleines, an analyst at Birinyi Associates who wrote in a December 13 research note:

Sixty percent of the Internet or social-media companies that completed U.S. IPOs since 2010 are trading below offer price. Buyers of the shares at their opening trade in the public market have lost an average of 32 percent.

These numbers should give investors pause. No doubt, Facebook’s IPO in the new year will be watched very closely.

Source: Zynga Declines in First Day of Trading After $1 Billion IPO, by Lee Spears and Douglas MacMillan, for Bloomberg Businessweek, Dec. 16, 2011.

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