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News > Technology
eBAY: return of the IPO
September 24, 1998: 5:05 p.m. ET

Internet auction company's stock zooms on first day of trading
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NEW YORK (CNNfn) - eBay Inc., an online auctioneer that sells everything from Beanie Babies to computers, soared more than 163 percent Thursday in its first day of trading as investors heartily welcomed the first initial public offering in a month.
     Amid the most sluggish initial public offering market in nearly a decade, Internet auction company eBay went public Thursday at $18 per share. When trading officially began, eBay shares zoomed to 53-1/2 before retreating to close at 47-3/8, up 29-3/8 or 163 percent.
    
    
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     Based on 3.5 million shares and the $18 offering price, the San Jose, Calif.-based company will raise $63 million and have a market capitalization $1.88 billion, topping the $1.05 billion worth of venerated art auction house Sotheby's.
     eBay's underwriter, Goldman Sachs, raised its price range estimate for the IPO to $16-$18 per share, up 13 percent from its original pricing of $14 to $16.
     The successful offering was also a bright spot for the initial public offering market, which has suffered recently by the international troubles roiling world markets.
     For now, eBay dominates the fast growing online auction house market. As of June 30, the company had 850,000 registered users - up from 41,000 users two years ago.
     David Menlow, president of IPO Financial Network attributes the rise to the fact that people were waiting for a familiar name to succeed in what has been a jittery IPO market.
     "People want to see big names with stocks that don't necessarily equivocate. They want someone to be the prophet and lead them to the promised land," he told Reuters.
     Although eBay is one of the most successful online auction sites, it's dominance might not last long.
     Yahoo!, the popular search engine, teamed with Onsale Inc. recently to build and promote its auction site. Onsale, which completed a successful IPO last year, sells only new products from manufacturers and distributors -- for now.
     eBay also competes with First Auction, run by a Home Shopping Network subsidiary, and with Web portal heavyweight Excite Inc. (XCIT).
     Earlier this year, Excite acquired Classifieds 2000, now the featured auction site on its portal.
     First Auction, however, sells its own products, while eBay allows individuals to set up auctions of their own goods, acting more as the middleman.
     To protect its market share, analysts say eBay will have to begin selling itself more aggressively to the public.
     "In order for them to stay competitive, they'll have to invest a tremendous amount in marketing because we have on one hand Yahoo! getting into it, and whenever Yahoo! gets into a market it encourages everyone else to get into it," said Tom Taulli, head of the Taulli Report, a trade publication that tracks the industry. "All other search engines, in my opinion, will start to come into this space."
    
Internet IPOs

     Before the recent dry spell, triggered by emerging market pressures and uncertainty about domestic economic health going forward, Internet companies have had a series of IPO success stories this year. Many investors, it seems, have concluded their portfolios are incomplete without the high-risk, high-growth potential that Internet stocks provide.
     In July, Broadcast.com Inc. (BCST), an online media programming company, was priced at 18 and shot up as high as 74 before midday trading.
     And earlier this spring, Broadcom Corp. (BRCM) made an impressive public debut, climbing 123 percent from its offering price of 24.
     Now it's eBay's turn. The Internet-auction company's IPO offering was priced at the top end of its estimated range.
     But will it be enough to jump-start the stagnant IPO market? Analysts say that remains to be seen. Back to top
     --by staff writer Shelly K. Schwartz with additional information from wire reports.

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