Spotify valued at $26bn in unusual stock debut listing

Spotify's successful debut could pave way for other companies looking to go public without the aid of Wall Street.

    Spotify soared to a value of more than $26bn in its long-awaited stock debut on Tuesday and achieved a valuation among the top US tech listings.

    Shares opened at the New York Stock Exchange at $165.90 a share, well above the reference price of $132. The shares closed at the end of the day at $149 a share, which valued the company at $26.5bn.

    Spotify opted for a rare direct listing rather than a traditional initial public offering, which raised questions around its stock debut.

    The Swedish Stockholm-based company warned in advance of the listing that prices might be volatile.

    In a direct listing, a company doesn't raise any money by issuing new shares, which is unusual for a first public offering.

    Instead, the company will allow existing shares owned by investors and employees to be traded publicly.

    This way, the company was able to save tens of millions of dollars in fees while still giving its employees and early investors the chance to cash out.

    No Initial Public Offering means that there are no investment banks to underwrite (or sponsor) and price the offering.

    The public markets will essentially only determine what Spotify shares will be worth when they start trading.

    Wall Street's banks still made money on Spotify's offering, however, just not as much as they would have if the company had listed in a traditional IPO.

    For its stock debut, Spotify hired Goldman Sachs Group Inc, Morgan Stanley and Allen & Co as advisers and paid them about $36m in total.

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    In comparison, when Snap Inc, the parent company of Snapchat, went public in an IPO last year, it paid nearly $100m to its team of underwriters.

    The direct listing by Spotify was the largest on record, with Spotify now having a higher market value than Snap Inc.

    Leading up to the listing, Spotify had disclosed price history of trading of its private shares, in order to establish its market value ahead of the listing.

    At $26.5bn by the end of the first trading day, Spotify ranks in the top 10 largest US tech listings.

    Facebook Inc and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd still remain the largest tech stock listings.

    Increasing competition

    Spotify is often credited for reversing a tide of declining revenue in the music industry and last year, profits rose to their highest level in a decade, largely thanks to paid subscribers.

    However, Spotify is now entwined in an increasingly competitive music-streaming business, where almost all of its main competitors are owned by tech giants whose music-streaming services are not their core business.

    Services such as Apple Music or Amazon Music Unlimited, even though trailing after Spotify in terms of numbers of subscribers, do not have to worry about staying commercially viable.

    Their music-streaming services are additive to their user ecosystems, which leaves Spotify essentially alone in the quest to design models to keep its business profitable.

    The unusual listing thus added to the suspense over how Spotify would fare on the market as the company has yet to turn a profit.

    Spotify's successful debut could pave way for other companies looking to go public without the aid of Wall Street underwriters.

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    In contrast to last year's debut of social media group Snap, Spotify's top executives were not present at the NYSE to see their company go public for the first time.

    "Normally, companies ring bells. Normally, companies spend their day doing interviews on the trading floor touting why their stock is a good investment. Normally, companies don't pursue a direct listing," Daniel EK, the founder and CEO of Spotify, wrote in a blog post. "Spotify has never been a normal kind of company."

    Last month, Spotify announced that it is aiming for 200 million monthly users by the end of this year, with around 96 million paying subscribers.

    At the end of last year, Spotify counted 159 million monthly users of which 71 million are premium subscribers.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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