SAN FRANCISCO -- Investors hinted that consumer websites are still a popular investment despite Facebook's follies, pushing the price for online money-transfer site Xoom more than 50 percent higher in its market debut Friday.
The online-payments company priced initial public offering at $16 a share Thursday night, $1 higher than the top of the suggested range of $13 to $15. A total of 6.3 million shares were sold, with 1.1 million coming from early investors and the rest from the company, for a total take of $101.2 million and valuation of more than $500 million.
When the stock began trading under the ticker symbol "XOOM" Friday morning on the Nasdaq at 7:50 a.m. Pacific time, the price jumped 31.3 percent to $21 immediately, but that ended up being the lowest price paid for shares on the open market on Xoom's debut day. The stock traded in a range from $21 to $25.70 before closing at $25.10, a gain of 56.9 percent from the IPO price.
The San Francisco company, cofounded in 2001 by early PayPal investor Kevin Hartz, updates the traditional model of sending money to contacts in foreign countries, bringing in mobile phones and the Internet.
Rather than walking into Western Union to wire money home, immigrants can log onto Xoom.com and send money to 30 countries on six continents. Cash is wired to the recipient's cellphone from a bank account, credit card or PayPal account; the
In an interview with this newspaper, CEO John Kunze pronounced himself "thrilled" by Wall Street's reaction, while adding that it had taken the company a decade to reach the IPO milestone. Hartz handed the reins at Xoom to Kunze before he and his wife turned their attention to their other hot Silicon Valley startup -- Eventbrite, which lets users plan, promote and sell tickets for events.
Kunze, who previously took Plum Tree Software public before selling it to BEA Systems for $200 million, said that in the past 10 years, Xoom has built an extensive system of relationships with regulators, retailers and banks in dozens of countries. That's given the company an enormous head start over potential competitors, he added, giving investors confidence in its ability to profit from an $82 billion global market for money transfers.
Hartz said that sprawling market was one of the reasons he launched the money-transfer startup. "When I think about the companies I'm involved in, we're always trying to reach 6 billion people, as opposed to just the 300 million in the U.S.," he said.
Plus, he added: "I don't like businesses that use abusive practices. If you look at the traditional money-transfer companies, they're really fleecing immigrants who are working hard to support their families back home."
Xoom charges fees to customers to complete the transactions, though its says the fees are much lower than those charged by entrenched players in the field like Western Union. In the past five years, customers have used the platform to send $6.6 billion with nearly half of that transmitted last year. That helped Xoom post its largest revenues yet last year, at $80 million, but the business is not yet profitable.
"Xoom has loyal customers that love the company's product," said Sam Hamadeh, CEO of a New York firm called PrivCo that analyzes the finances of private companies.
He said the company's high percentage of repeat customers, plus 60 percent revenue growth between 2011 and 2012, "reassures IPO investors that Xoom will have solid quarterly earnings visibility once it's a public company."
Still, Xoom's IPO filing warns that the challenges the company faces are the thicket of international regulations that govern money transfers and the risk that criminals or terrorists might use the service, scaring off legitimate customers.
Websites that depend on the fickle consumer to generate revenue have also faced a tough road with investors since Facebook's record-breaking IPO in May of 2012. Since its second day of trading, Facebook stock has yet to reach the price commanded at IPO time, $38, and few consumer-Web companies have even dared to attempt a Wall Street debut.
Kayak, a travel-reservations website, successfully debuted in July, receiving a solid first-day "pop" to 27.6 percent higher than its IPO price of $26 apiece. Rival Priceline jumped it to buy the company for $40 a share just a few months later, however.
Trulia, a real estate information site, also had a successful IPO with a model that depends on consumer interest, but that San Francisco company also has a strong enterprise offering, with real estate professionals paying fees in order to access the company's information. Enterprise IPOs have been much more successful in the wake of Facebook's IPO, with Silicon Valley companies like Wi-Fi provider Ruckus, cloud security software firm Palo Alto Networks and solar-energy installer SolarCity finding success.
Hartz cofounded the company with help from other members of the so-called PayPal Mafia, and two other influential alumni of the online-payments pioneer are on the board of the company, Keith Rabois and Roelof Botha.
Contact Jeremy C. Owens at 408-920-5876; follow him at Twitter.com/mercbizbreak.