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Pinterest and Zoom Debuts Point to ‘Bull Market’ for IPOs

It looks like scrap-booking is a hit in the IPO market. Shares of Pinterest Inc., the online board that allows users to “pin” or bookmark photos of home décor, weddings, exercise and more, opened at $23.75 Thursday, up 25 percent from its initial $19 listing, in its debut on the New York Stock Exchange. The San Francisco-based company was valued at more than $12 billion after early trading.

Zoom Video Communications Inc. also surged in its debut Thursday, opening at $65, an 81 percent increase from its initial $36. The valuation of the video conferencing company soared to $16 billion on initial trading. Zoom’s valuation was about $1 billion in its last private funding round in 2017, according to Bloomberg.

The two tech unicorns – private companies valued over $1 billion – had been hotly anticipated by investors and are the latest test of the IPO market’s strength. Appetite hasn’t cooled even after ride-hailing company Lyft Inc.’s stumble in its IPO last month. Other IPOs including Levi Strauss & Co. and Tuffin Software Technologies have been successful.

The IPOs’ success show that investors are looking for places to put their money and for now are favoring growth over profit. Many of the IPOs are still largely unprofitable (with Zoom as an exception). Lyft had a 2018 net loss. Pinterest reported revenue growth in 2018 but a net loss that was halved from 2017. Uber’s filing for its upcoming listing showed a $3 billion operating loss in 2018. The new IPOs are “great for the capital markets, which need high-tech growth companies,’’ Santosh Rao, head of research at Manhattan Venture Partners, said in an interview. “The market is yearning for growth stocks. These companies are very good, very disruptive.”

The broader stock market is rising this year, which in turn is fueling IPOs. Companies that have gone public in 2019 are up 11.8 percent on average from their IPO prices through April 17, according to Dealogic. Technology and internet IPOs have fared even better, gaining 36.1 percent on average in that time, Dealogic says.

Pinterest is taking a slow approach to making money from its service. Even though the digital marketing space is crowded, the company’s users are typically aiming to make purchases. The company sells click-to-buy ads and targeted ads that appear in its users’ feeds. Pinterest said it has 265 million monthly users. Pinterest users “are predominantly female and the people who use it, love it,” Rao said. “Advertisers love it because those who use it are coming to buy or are looking to buy.” Pinterest is “a stealth company,” Rao said. “It’s not a screaming buy but it’s a company that will perform.” He added that he believes that “Pinterest is going to be profitable next year. It’s almost there.”

As for the the bull market for IPOs? About 90 IPOs are expected to list on the Nasdaq alone in the first half of this year, Nelson Griggs, president of the Nasdaq Stock Exchange, said in an interview Thursday on CNBC. “A deal or two deals the market does not make,” he said about Pinterest and Zoom. “But they certainly have an impact.” Up next? Slack Technologies Inc., Postmates Inc., Palantir Technologies and Airbnb Inc. are all considering going public. “These companies are playing the long game,” Rao said of the IPOs. “They have sophisticated investors.”

And, if this IPO market keeps up, they’ll have happy investors, too.