A123's IPO is electric, but REIT deals flop

The busiest week of initial public offerings since 2007 is turning out pretty mixed. Investors gobbled up shares of an unprofitable car-battery maker, but showed little love for financials looking to make bets in the troubled commercial real estate sector.

A123 Systems (AONE) generated the most buzz Thursday, raising $378 million after pricing 28.1 million shares at $13.50 a pop. The stock soared nearly 50 percent early in the session, lifting hopes that the maker of batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles might just jump start the IPO market after two desultory years for deals.

Less auspicious were the debuts of two real estate investment trusts (REITs) looking to use government loans to invest in commercial mortgage backed securities (CMBS).
Colony Financial (CLNY) and Apollo Commercial Real Estate Finance (ARI) both priced Thursday, but only after slashing their offerings in half at the last minute. Colony raised $250 million after pricing 12.5 million shares at $20, while Apollo tapped the market for $200 million after pricing 10 million shares at $20. Both stocks flopped after going public, marking these offerings as failures.

Investors haven't been too keen on mortgage REIT IPOs. Partly that's because there's something of a glut of these deals (there's another eight proposed IPOs waiting on the calendar), but mostly it's that they're just a tough sell, says David Menlow, president of IPO Financial Network.

"Not everyone is confident that the [CMBS] asset base is valued properly," Menlow says. "And then there's the concern that if commercial real estate makes another move down, how insulated are they?"

The IPO market has been so psychologically damaged that deals need to make sense from the very beginning, Menlow adds. "Investors don't want to be convinced by their brokers as to why they should be in an IPO," he says. "It's not a 'give me anything you have' environment."

The winner among financial IPOs was Artio Global Investors (ART), shares of which spiked as much as 8 percent soon after making their stock market debut. The company, which invests in global equities and debt, raised $650 million after pricing 25 million shares at $26.
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