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The ABCs of a unique IPO
The hottest tech IPO in years will be run as a "Dutch Auction."
April 29, 2004: 10:58 PM EDT
By Les Christie, CNN/Money contributing writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Couldn't get in on the Netscape IPO? Missed out on Microsoft? Got frozen out of taking a plunge on eBay? Now there's Google.

After months of speculation, the company announced on Thursday that it is going public.

According to its filing, Google seems willing, eager even, to start off life as a publicly traded company on the right foot, hoping to steer clear of some of the sweetheart dealmaking that characterized the last wave of go-go IPOs.

Instead, Google plans an auction of its shares to raise up to $2.7 billion; a process open to all bidders.

A spokesperson from underwriter Credit Suisse First Boston declined comment, but here's how the filing describes the process for buying shares in the auction:

  • Open an account with one of the two underwriters, CSFB or Morgan Stanley.
  • You must obtain a prospectus detailing the investment's risks, as well as an underwriter's account eligibility and suitability requirements. This will be available electronically, according to the company.
  • After receiving the prospectus and sometime before the auction, bidders must obtain a "unique bidder ID." Bidder IDs will not be available after the bidding begins.
  • Once you qualify, you're able to bid when the auction starts. The bid you make must include the number of shares you want and the price you're willing to pay for them. You may bid below the price range if you believe that there'll be lower demand than has been speculated. And you can also bid higher if you think there'll be more.

The final IPO price will be determined after the auction closes. The underwriters will calculate it by gathering all the bids and calculating the cut off point at or above which all the shares available can be sold.

Say Google settles on an allocation 150 million shares, and it receives bids for one billion at a range of prices. Only the highest bids adding up to 150 million shares will count as winning bids.

The IPO price will equal the lowest price bid on any of those 150 million shares. The price all bidders pay will be the IPO price -- even if they had bid higher.

So it seems that you may be able to buy shares of Google, but should you?

Ideally, the auction process enables sellers to price the issue "right." That is, its price should reflect the reasoning of thousands of investors who will determine for themselves how much they are willing to pay for a share.

This type of auction should cut down on the huge run-up in share price experienced during the first days of trading experienced by other tech IPOs during the 1990s.

So bid on shares if you believe in the company -- remembering, of course, that few companies make it from start-up to titan without experiencing big setbacks along the way. But don't count on being able to flip your shares for a large gain the day after the IPO.  Top of page




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Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.