NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Shares of iVillage Inc., the network of Web sites devoted to women's issues, soared 234 percent in its first day of trading Friday, underscoring the continued investor interest in anything Internet related.
The New York-based Internet firm's stock closed at 80-1/8, up 56-1/8 from its offering price of 24. The company's stock opened at 95-7/8 and climbed as high as 100 on the Nasdaq stock market.
iVillage 's (IVIL) IPO, underwritten by Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse First Boston and Hambrecht & Quist, has been one of the most anticipated in recent weeks, despite the fact that the company reported 1998 losses of $43.7 million, or $21.10 a share.
The company targets a highly valued demographic - affluent women between 25 and 49. iVillage also boasts several high-profile investors, including General Electric Co. 's (GE) NBC broadcasting network, America Online Inc. (AOL) and Intel Corp. (INTC).
Furthermore, the company has history on its side with a string of highly successful Internet-related IPOs.
"Internet communities have done well," said Jennifer McBrien, analyst at Renaissance Capital Corp. "If you look at theglobe.com (TGLO) and GeoCities (GCTY), iVillage is a natural extension of that."
But Gail Bronson, an analyst at IPO Monitor, said the frenzy surrounding iVillage's IPO has been overdone.
"I can't imagine" what the attraction is, Bronson said. "They're capitalizing on being first to market in their sector of the Internet. They're being supported by strong underwriters, an interesting name and a lot of media hype."
Adam Schoenfeld, an analyst at Jupiter Communications, said iVillage has the potential to be a market leader, but added that the high valuation immediately placed on the firm was excessive.
"Women control household budgets and more women will shop online this year, which makes that demographic attractive to advertisers," Schoenfeld said. "But I don't think it justifies an $80 stock price."
Analysts also noted that iVillage will soon face serious competition when publishing giant Hearst Corp. launches a revamped women.com and Oxygen Media opens its site later this year.
Oxygen, the brainchild of former Nickelodeon president Geraldine Laybourne, has signed partnerships with Oprah Winfrey's HARPO Entertainment Group and television producers Marcy Carsey, Tom Werner and Caryn Mandabach.
"It's a really competitive field, and there's no guarantee that iVillage will be the winner," Schoenfeld said.
-- by staff writer John Frederick Moore