Dorsey's Square jumps in market debut, offering hope to startups

Insight Into Square's IPO Pricing
Insight Into Square's IPO Pricing

Shares of Square Inc, the mobile payments company co-founded and still run by Twitter Inc Chief Executive Jack Dorsey, rose as much as 64 percent in their market debut, offering hope to tech startups hoping to go public.

Square's shares touched a high of $14.78 in early trading on Thursday, valuing the company at $4.77 billion.

SEE ALSO: Hip to be Square? Not for this IPO

While the stock popped at the opening, the IPO price of $9 per share was well below the expected range of $11-$13.

The steeply discounted price had raised questions about what it could mean for so-called "unicorns" - start-ups worth at least $1 billion - that may want to go public.

"The shares will do well given they have been priced far below their range and because there's real opportunity for new startups," said James Angel, associate professor of finance at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business.

Square's strong start was followed by a positive debut by online dating company Match Group Inc, whose shares rose as much as 13 percent.

The payment processor's IPO raised $243 million after the company's shares were priced at $9 each.

The debut comes at a time when slowing global growth and uncertainty about the timing of a U.S. interest rate hike have kept investors on edge.

As of Wednesday, 35 of 144 U.S. IPOs this year had to be priced below the expected range.

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Competition is also intensifying in the mobile payments market, with Apple Inc launching its Apple Pay service, Inc exploring in-store payments, and start-ups such as Stripe Inc entering the fray.


Square, which has been investing heavily, reported a loss of $131.5 million in the first nine months of the year after losing $117 million a year earlier, but revenue rose 49 percent to $892.8 million.

"Square's financials leave much to be desired. But there's still a lot to like here, and think the success of their debut will say a lot about the current IPO environment," said Brian Hamilton, chairman of data firm Sageworks.

Dorsey, who was celebrating his birthday on Thursday, told CNBC he expected Square to break even in the second quarter.

Still, investors wonder how much time he will be able to devote to Square as he tries to boost Twitter's user growth. Twitter's shares were up 1.7 percent.

San Francisco-based Square sold 25.7 million class A common shares in the offering, while Start Small Foundation, a charitable fund created by Dorsey, sold about 1.35 million.

Dorsey owns 21.9 percent of Square following the IPO and is the company's biggest shareholder.

Square was founded in 2009 after co-founder Jim McKelvey, an artist, realized how difficult it was for small businesses to accept card payments when he could not do so at an art show.

The company has since also moved into other services, such as lending and providing invoice software.

(Reporting by Rachel Chitra; Editing by Kirti Pandey and Ted Kerr)

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