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Snapchat Likely the Most Expensive Big Tech IPO Ever

Feb 03, 2017

If investors do buy into the $25 billion valuation reportedly being sought by Snapchat's founders, they'll likely be paying for the priciest tech IPO to hit the market, perhaps ever. At least by one measure, it's more than double as expensive as Facebook's IPO, and nearly four times as expensive as Google's.

Snapchat co-founders are reportedly seeking a $25 billion or more valuation for their social media company. Investors may bite. The company's sales increased 600% in 2016, as revealed by its IPO filing. But if the messaging service does hit that goal, it will be more expensive than Facebook, Alibaba, and even Google at the time of their IPOs.

Fortune previously noted that Snapchat's owner Snap is far more expensive than its competitors who have been exposed to the public markets. But even when looking at public tech companies when their own IPOs were highly anticipated events, Snap still comes up on top as the priciest stock.

Since Snapchat lost roughly $515 million in 2016 and has yet to turn a profit, the more conventional stock valuation metric, the price-to-earnings ratio, won't hold up. So we'll be measuring how much the companies thought investors would be willing to pay for each dollar of revenue, or the price-to-sales ratio.

For Snap, it's a lot. Fortune took a look at some other notable IPOs of tech companies and couldn't find a single one that offered shares at a higher valuation than Snap. The closest: Twitter (twtr). When Twitter went public in 2013, the social media company sought a $14.2 billion valuation. At the time, its sales in the year preceding the offering came in at $316.9 million, meaning that its owners were looking for a valuation of nearly 45 times sales. But even that is about 40% lower than where Snap looks to be pricing its shares. At the rumored $25 billion valuation, Snap's owners and its bankers are looking to sell shares at a sky high 62 times sales. What's more, while Twitter, like Snap, was not profitable at the time of its IPO, the social media company had lost just $79 million in the year before it went public, or less than 20% of Snap's red ink in 2016.

Facebook (fb) on the other hand, had revenue of $3.7 billion and a profit of $1 billion in the year before its IPO. Yet, the P/S on its shares at the time of Facebook's IPO was a relatively cheap 28. Facebook's shares, nonetheless, struggled for nearly a year after its offering. Twitter's shares rose after their IPO, but have stumbled in the past year or so, and recently have fallen to just under $18, from $50 two years ago.

Investors often rush to IPOs so Snap's offering is likely to find buyers, particularly given the company's recent growth. But the shares' shy high valuation could vanish quickly.

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