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Best IPOs: Splunk

Big data made a big splash in 2012, and Splunk (SPLK) was there to take advantage of it. The company searches and processes large amounts of data for clients like Bank of America and Comcast, providing them with valuable insights and hard numbers.

Even though it was an unprofitable, little known business-to-business startup at the time, it had an explosive debut on the NYSE in April. Shares shot up 109% on their first day. Trading in the stock was so intense, it tripped an NYSE circuit breaker put in place to curb volatile trading. Six months after the IPO, Splunk shares were still up an impressive 85%.

Best IPOs: Annie’s

While investors flocked to cloud technology and software companies this year, one of the biggest winners in the IPO market was a firm that makes organic mac and cheese. Berkeley, California-based Annie’s (BNNY) saw its shares rise by 89% on its opening day on the NYSE, which, at the time, made it the single best IPO performance since LinkedIn the year before.

Riding the country’s growing demand for natural and organic foods, the stock continued to soar, returning well over 100% six months later.

Best IPOs: Protolabs

The custom machine parts manufacturer opened at $16 a share in late February this year and closed at $29, an increase of 81% on its opening day. Protolabs (PRLB), which makes prototypes and sample parts for companies creating new products, made a big impression on investors during its roadshow and there was an enthusiastic response to the business.

The IPO was another sign that manufacturing is making a comeback. Six months later, the stock was still up 104%.

Best IPOs: Guidewire

Cloud technology companies were all the rage in the IPO market this year and Guidewire (GWRE) was the first to set the trend. The firm, which makes cloud software for the insurance industry, was the first tech IPO of the year, debuting in January at $13 a share.

It jumped 32% on its first trading day and it has continued to climb since, making its buy-and-hold investors happy. It currently trades at over $30 a share, a gain of 130% since its debut.

Best IPOs: Yelp

Despite the fact that the San Francisco-based business reviews site had yet to turn a profit since it was founded in 2004, Yelp (YELP) managed to log a strong first-day performance in the public markets. Shares shot up 64% on their opening day, making it yet another IPO feeding the investor frenzy for Internet stocks.

The shares turned in a solid performance as the year went on, despite the Facebook IPO disaster and general skepticism of social media stock performance — Yelp is up nearly 50% since the IPO.

Worst IPOs: Envivio

For every big tech IPO win, there was a tech IPO that landed with a thud and Envivio (ENVI) had one of the worst ones of the year. While shares of the Internet video-networking technology firm dipped only 6% on its opening day in April, the stock continued to slide after that. The company revised its revenue outlook in its second and third quarters after struggling to land big name accounts in the US and Europe, where customers tightened their belts.

Six months later, it was down by 76%. It’s currently languishing at 81% below its offering price, proving the fickleness of the IPO market this year, especially when it came to tech.

Worst IPOs: Facebook

We couldn’t possibly have an end-of-year IPO list without mentioning what some were calling the worst IPO of the decade, if not all time. From a bungled first day of trading on the Nasdaq to disclosures that the company had provided selective information to large institutional investors, the whole thing was a mess from start to finish.

As Andrew Ross Sorkin wrote in the New York Times in September, “Facebook’s market value has dropped more than $50 billion in 90 days. To put that in perspective, that’s more market value than Lehman Brothers gave up in the entire year before it filed for bankruptcy.” Facebook (FB) has rebounded some since, and it now trades at 28% below its offering price.

Worst IPOs: AVG Technologies

Expectations were high for anti-virus maker AVG Technologies (AVG) when it announced its plans to go public. Revenues were growing and many investors believed it was attractive on a valuation basis. But the stock dropped 18.75% on its opening day, the single largest drop for any IPO this year.

Analysts blamed the heavy competition AVG faced and noted that competitors like Symantec and McAfee had struck tie-in deals with PC makers while AVG relied on attracting customers through its online ‘freemium’ model. There were also concerns that AVG didn’t have a suitable mobile version of Safe Search, its most successful product. Six months later, the stock was down by 33%.

Worst IPOs: Edgen Group

The Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based oil and gas industry parts maker Edgen (EDG) had an IPO price of $11 a share but the stock opened at $10.35, down 5.9%, and closed its first day down 14%.

Even though the company was posting record sales and was on course to show a profit in the second quarter, earnings took a huge hit from a $15.1 million loss on prepayment of debt and $3 million in equity-based compensation charges. The stock never recovered — 6 months later it was 30% below the offering price.

Worst IPOs: CafePress

Things looked promising when online specialty print maker CafePress (PRSS) went public in March. The stock jumped immediately after opening at $21.50 a share before ending the day flat. Although it rose steadily during the following days, the stock price plummeted in May, when the company projected a quarterly profit well below analysts’ estimates.

CEO Bob Marino blamed voter indifference to political merchandise in the election season, which should have been a big sales opportunity. Six months later, the stock was down by 52% and now it’s trading at 69% below the IPO price.