Companies are offering shares of initial public offerings at lower prices than had been expected because investors are demanding discounts as stock markets trade wildly.
Cutting its price by a third helped give mobile navigation services provider TeleNav Inc.'s IPO a pop. Shares jumped nearly 30 percent in afternoon trading, giving the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company one of the strongest openings this year.
Retailer Express Inc. raised $272 million, before expenses, by selling 16 million shares priced at $17 each. Express, based in Columbus, Ohio, and the underwriting banks had expected a price from $18 to $20 for each share. The stock slipped Thursday.
Cudahy, Wis.-based Roadrunner Transportation Systems Inc.'s shares also fell in their debut after the IPO priced at the bottom of the expected range, raising $148.4 million.
"There's enough skepticism in the equity market in general that the last thing investors are looking for is new supply," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer of Harris Private Bank in Chicago. "When you get a 1,000-point swoon to the downside and regulators can't figure out what caused it, leaves a little trepidation."
The Dow Jones industrial average plunged almost 1,000 points in about 30 minutes on May 6. The exact cause is still unknown. Adding to market uncertainty, debt problems in Europe have left investors nervous. A four-day losing streak last week sent the market into negative territory for the year, but the Dow is now up again after a 400-point gain Tuesday. Trading remains volatile, and the Dow was flat Thursday afternoon while the Standard & Poor's 500 was slightly lower.
The IPO activity on Thursday followed other discouraging developments for companies looking to raise money through initial public offerings. Chinese oil company MIE Holdings Corp. postponed its IPO earlier this week, the fifth company to do so in May, while metals producer Noranda Aluminum Holding Corp. slashed its expected IPO by 66 percent Thursday, cutting the number of shares it plans to offer and the price for the stock.
Investors are also wary of private equity firms discharging companies from their portfolios into the public markets in order to recoup their investments.
"I'm not sure most of us would want to buy somebody else's exit strategy," Ablin said.
Express is owned by Golden Gate Private Equity Inc., which has already received more in dividends from Express than it paid for its 75 percent stake in 2007.
Proceeds from the IPO are going to prepay debt and make payments to Golden Gate Private and Express' former owner, Limited Brands Inc.
Noranda is also being brought to market by a takeover firm. Its backer, Apollo Management LP, now intends to keep its entire stake after the IPO. Apollo had planned to offer 2.5 million to underwriters to cover excess demand. Apollo took another metals company public in April, Metals USA Holdings Corp. Metals USA is currently trading about 24 percent below its offering price.
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