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Snap Slips Below IPO Price Amid Doubts Over Future Growth

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Credit: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg
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Snap Inc. shares fell below their initial public offering price for the first time amid questions about the company's ability to grow as fast as initially expected and after recent declines in technology stocks worldwide.

The stock closed down 1.1% at $16.99 in New York Monday, below the $17 IPO price set on March 1 and having earlier slipped as low as $16.95. To regain value, the company will need to prove that its advertisements are a must-buy, not just an experiment, and will need to keep innovating on its product as Facebook Inc. copies its most popular features, analysts have said.

"The pace of growth in monetization may not be as fast as we originally modeled," Mark May, an analyst at Citigroup Inc., said in a note downgrading the stock last month. "We expect user growth will remain modest near-term."

Many large technology stocks, including Facebook, Apple, Nvidia and Microsoft, declined in the past month after analysts began raising red flags on some of the high valuations.

In its IPO, Venice, Calif.-based Snap drew investors who were enthusiastic about a company popular with young people for sending fun photo and video messages that disappear, and it was intriguing to advertisers who want to reach that elusive audience. But in May, Snap reported earnings and growth in daily active users, or DAUs, that missed analyst estimates, casting doubt over its ability to live up to its more than $20 billion valuation.

About 35% of analysts following Snap recommend buying the stock, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. And there could be an additional catalyst to drive the shares down further: On July 30, insiders who had their shares in a lockup after the IPO will start to be able to sell them.

'Ghastly levels'
"With market fears running rampant around Snap's DAU growth, the lock-up expirations this summer and increased competition from Facebook, sentiment around Snap remains at ghastly levels," Brian White, a Drexel Hamilton analyst, wrote in a June 29 note.

On Snap's first day of trading on March 2, the stock climbed 44% to $24.48. The next day, an additional 11% climb brought the shares to their all-time high of $27.09. The positive performance was said to ignite interest from other private companies in holding their own public offerings, after many months of IPO drought.

The enthusiasm didn't last. While the first six months of the year saw a jump in U.S. tech IPOs from 2016, there is more concern looming over Snap's listing than its peers. Of the 14 stocks that went public in 2017 through June 8, Snap's shares were the most-shorted as traders bet the stock will fall.

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