Wall Street Beat: Market stokes tech IPOs, as Tableau and Marketo debut

IPOs ride the market rise, but not all tech companies may benefit

A strong stock market could open the floodgates for more tech IPOs in the wake of Friday's solid debut of Marketo and Tableau, but not all segments of IT may be able to ride the wave.

Marketo, which sells cloud-based marketing software, jumped 78 percent to close at US$23.10, up $10.10 from its opening on the Nasdaq. Tableau, a business intelligence and data visualization company trading under the eye-catching ticker "DATA", rose 64 percent to close at $50.75, up $19.75 from its opening on the New York Stock Exchange.

Tableau originally was set to offer 7.2 million shares but added another million shares thanks to an institutional investor that underwrote more of the float at the last moment. As a result, the company raised $254 million, rather than the $150 million it originally sought.

The promising debuts came as major markets and indexes rose for the fourth straight week, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the Standard and Poor's 500 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq exchange all closing up for the week. The Dow and the S&P have both hit nominal (not adjusted for inflation) record highs recently, having surpassed the milestone round figures of 15,000 and 1,600, respectively, three weeks ago.

Signs of a stronger jobs market and rising consumer confidence have helped fuel the rise in markets. On Friday, the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's preliminary reading on the overall index on consumer sentiment rose to 83.7, its highest level in nearly six years.

The Nasdaq has lagged behind the major indexes, but mainly as a result of weakness in Apple, which is a main component of the exchange.

Taking Apple out of the Nasdaq, it would be faring better than it is at the moment, said John Fitzgibbon, an IPO analyst who runs the IPOScoop website. "So how the market is doing more generally is more important right now."

Of the five tech companies in the Dow only Hewlett-Packard, with a strong exposure to the declining PC market, closed down Friday. The other tech stocks in the index -- IBM, Cisco, Intel and Microsoft -- all closed up. While Intel's fortunes have been tied to the PC market, analysts have applauded its recent moves to make chips for mobile devices, like Atom processors that are aimed at tablets.

Hit by tough competition from Android-based devices and plagued by doubts about its ability to continue to deliver hit products, Apple shares have flagged after hitting highs last year that made it, for a while, the biggest market capitalization (share value multiplied by number of outstanding shares) of any company in the word.

Nevertheless, even the Nasdaq has risen recently, and is at its highest point since 2000, as the dot-com boom started to go bust. The Nasdaq Computer Index, now up about 8 percent for the year, is starting to catch up to other indexes.

A strong market gives confidence to companies mulling IPOs, Fitzgibbon said. The opposite also can be true. While many market watchers pointed to Facebook's bungled IPO a year ago as the main reason for the decline in tech IPOs last year, Fitzgibbon noted that a third-quarter market slump -- which had nothing to do with Facebook -- occurred right around that time.

Even if the market stays strong, though, a rising tide may not lift all boats. Of the seven tech IPOs so far this year, three are down from their opening, he noted.

"The key word is 'selective,'" Fitzgibbon said. "Cloud technology is hot," as well as some areas of software. So Tableau and Marketo are in what's generally seen as particularly strong segments of tech right now. Among the more recognized names potentially in the IPO pipeline, Box, the cloud-based file-sharing and storage provider, has publicly stated its intentions of going public. Twitter is also generally seen as being ripe for an IPO.

"People feel like they are swimming in data. Data is in spreadsheets, databases, data warehouses, in the cloud, in Hadoop, one source after the other," said Christian Chabot, Tableau CEO and co-founder. Gartner predicts organizations will spend $81 billion on business analytics and related services in 2014. The company's secret sauce in this crowded field of competitors is a visual query language, first created by Ph.D. researchers at Stanford University. "People can query databases and spreadsheets of every size and format and get pictures of what they want to see," Chabot said. "There's nothing else like it on the market."

The company has been increasing revenue at a vigorous pace, from $34 million in 2010 to almost $128 million in 2012. Net income, during this time, has largely remained steady: $2.7 million in 2010, $3.3 million in 2011 and $1.4 million in 2012. "We're not trying to make too much profit at this point. We're trying to invest every dollar we can back into the business to grow the top-line," Chabot said. The company will use the infusion of IPO money to sell the software in more countries, as well as to port the software work on more platforms. More money will also be channeled into research and development and marketing. "The biggest challenge will be to continue to find exceptional people in software engineering and sales that can take the company to the next level," Chabot said.

Market research forecasts for the year call for a tough hardware market, but paint a brighter picture for software and cloud-oriented technology. IDC this week issued a report projecting worldwide IT spending growth, not including telecom services, of 4.9 percent in constant currency, to $2.06 trillion, down from its previous forecast of 5.5 percent.

"Economic uncertainty surrounding the U.S. government sequester, European debt crisis, and weakening GDP in China has resulted in volatile spending patterns across most segments of the market, with many IT vendors reporting difficulty closing deals at the end of Q1 2013," IDC said in the report.

The increase in software spending, at 5.6 percent, will be higher than the overall forecast, and mobile devices and cloud technology are expected to outperform other areas of IT, IDC said.

"Just as outsourcing got its boost from the 2001 recession, and virtualization from the financial crisis of 2009, low-cost mobile devices and the cloud are being partly driven by the willingness of businesses to look for new ways of getting things done in return for improvements in efficiency, scalability, and cost of ownership," said IDC's Stephen Minton, in the report.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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