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Burlington software company Exa begins trading

Exa Corp. officials rang the Nasdaq’s opening bell on Thursday.

NASDAQ

Exa Corp. officials rang the Nasdaq’s opening bell on Thursday.

Burlington software maker Exa Corp. rang the opening bell on the Nasdaq Thursday morning and became the first company since the social media giant Facebook Inc. to debut on the exchange.

Exa priced its initial public offering on Wednesday night at $10 a share, below its range of $11 to $13, and raised $62.5 million. It began trading Thursday and closed at $9.80 a share, down 2 percent. Exa, listed under the symbol EXA, makes software that vehicle manufacturers use to test aerodynamics and improve performance.

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Another Massachusetts company, Waltham biotech firm Tesaro Inc., priced its initial public offering on Thursday. It raised $81 million by offering shares at $13.50. The two-year-old company is developing drugs to combat nausea associated with cancer treatments. It is expected to begin trading Friday under the symbol TSRO.

Exa’s arrival on the Nasdaq breaks an IPO drought on the exchange since Facebook opened there on May 18. Its IPO raised $16 billion and amounted to the biggest opening for an Internet company. But Facebook’s $38 initial price plummeted and fell to a low of $25.52 earlier this month. On Thursday, shares of the social network closed at $31.36.

“Exa’s performance may shed some light on the health of the IPO market overall,” said Stephanie Chang, a research analyst at Renaissance Capital, a Greenwich, Conn., investment advisory firm. But she cautioned that Exa may not be the best litmus test to determine the market for tech offerings since it’s a niche business.

An Exa spokeswoman declined to comment.

The 21-year-old company has grown largely under the radar in the Boston-area technology scene into a medium-size engineering-focused tech company with more than 200 employees. Some of its early funding came from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA. The company’s technology is used in the manufacture of military vehicles.

Today, more than 80 vehicle makers use its software, including Ford Motor Co., BMW, Toyota, and Porsche, according to the company’s filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. It also said it works with truck and off-road vehicle companies such as Peterbilt Motors Co.

When Exa first filed paperwork last August to begin the process of going public, the company said that it was exploring other markets that could use its technology, such as the aerospace industry and architectural firms. Most of its revenue comes from the licenses to use its PowerFLOW software, which simulates how air flows over moving vehicles and trucks.

Exa Corp. reported $45.9 million in revenue for its 2012 fiscal year that ended Jan. 31, a 21 percent increase over the same period last year. The company posted a profit of $14.5 million in fiscal 2012 and $395,000 in 2011, but recorded losses during the previous three years, according to its filing.

In 2010, the company’s technology was featured on the Discovery Channel series “Ultimate Car Build-Off,” a show that tracked contestant competing for a $100,000 prize. On the premier episode, participants used Exa software to virtually test designs to turn a minivan into a high-performance vehicle.

Michael B. Farrell can be reached at michael.farrell@globe.com.
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