Buffett-backed Snowflake's value doubles in stock market's largest software debut

(Reuters) - Snowflake Inc's <SNOW.N> shares more than doubled in their New York Stock Exchange debut on Wednesday, a day after the Warren Buffett-backed data warehouse company raised more than $3 billion in the largest U.S. listing of the year thus far.

Snowflake's spectacular market debut reflects the hearty appetite for new stocks, as low interest rates drive investors into equities.

The market overlooked Snowflake's losses, focusing on the prospects of its software business of data sharing on cloud systems, which has seen rapid growth as offices around the world adapt to remote working.

Snowflake shares started trading at $245 apiece on Wednesday, more than double its $120 IPO price, and closed up 111% at $253.93 to value it at over $70 billion.

"This is just one day. Things will normalize and shake out and become more settled as time moves on," Snowflake Chief Executive Frank Slootman said in an interview.

Among U.S.-listed companies with a market capitalization of at least $10 billion, only three companies are now more expensive than Snowflake's 2020 revenue multiple. It lags only Nikola Corp <NKLA.O>, Liberty Broadband <LBRDA.O> and Immunomedics Inc <IMMU.O>, according to Refinitiv.

Snowflake sold 28 million shares in its IPO to raise $3.36 billion in the biggest software IPO of all time.

For a such a large IPO, an opening pop of this magnitude is rare. The stunning debut makes CEO Slootman and CFO Mike Scarpelli billionaires, even though neither of them founded the company.

It is likely to reignite the debate among venture capital investors, including Benchmark's Bill Gurley, who argue investments banks underprice IPOs so their investor clients can score large gains when the stock starts trading.

Gurley has advocated companies consider going public through a direct listing, rather than an IPO, where the initial stock price is set by orders coming into the stock exchange.

Slootman said he had no regrets with how the company's IPO went.

"The idea that we could have sold all 28 million shares at the highest price we've seen today is complete and utter nonsense. Markets don't work that way," Slootman said.

"That's why this whole DL (direct listing) narrative and all the noise around it is incredibly misguided. What an IPO process does, it discovers the price at which you can move your entire offering. And of course that's a much lower number than the number at which you can move 100 shares."

Around 36 million shares changed hands on Wednesday.

Slootman, who has previously taken two other companies public, and Scarpelli were both hired last year to help Snowflake get ready for an IPO.

Prior to the IPO, Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc <BRKa.N> and Salesforce Ventures LLC had each agreed with Snowflake to purchase $250 million worth of stock.

Snowflake, founded in 2012 in San Francisco, sells a cloud data platform which promises to consolidate a business' data onto one platform.

Snowflake's full-year revenue for the period ended Jan. 31 jumped 173.9% to $264.7 million, though its net loss nearly doubled to $348.54 million.

The listing comes in the middle of a massive boom in U.S. capital markets following a rebound in demand for new listings, after the COVID-19 pandemic prompted many companies to put off plans to go public.

(Reporting by C. Nivedita in Bengaluru and Joshua Franklin in Boston; Additional reporting by Niket Nishant; Writing by Anirban Sen and Joshua Franklin; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Lincoln Feast.)

09/16/2020 21:31

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