Business & Tech

Snapchat files for $3 billion IPO as era of secrecy ends

Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel will hit the road to explain his company’s strategy and prospects.
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press/File 2013
Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel will hit the road to explain his company’s strategy and prospects.

Snap Inc., the maker of the disappearing photo app Snapchat, filed publicly for an initial offering, the first US social-media company to do so since Twitter Inc. more than three years ago.

The company filed with an initial size of $3 billion, a placeholder amount used to calculate fees that may change. Snap plans to raise as much as $4 billion in the IPO, people familiar with the matter have said, for a market value of as much as $25 billion.

The company’s net loss widened to $515 million in 2016, on revenue of $404 million, according to the prospectus filed Thursday. That compares with a loss of $382 million in 2015, on revenue of $59 million.

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Snapchat has more than 158 million daily active users, the prospectus shows. Quarterly average revenue per user on a global basis climbed to $1.05 in the fourth quarter of 2016, compared with 31 cents in the fourth quarter of 2015. Snap plans to use proceeds from the offering for general corporate purposes, which may include acquisitions, the filing shows.

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The company said it relies on Alphabet Inc.’s Google for most of its computing, storage, and bandwidth, and any disruptions to Google’s cloud functioning could “seriously” hurt its business. Snap said it plans to spend $2 billion with Alphabet over the next five years to use Google’s cloud-computing services.

It also noted that because Snapchat is used primarily on mobile devices, it relies on Google’s Android operating system and Apple Inc.’s operating system, over which it has no control. Snap also competes with those companies.

In addition to Google and Apple, Snap named Facebook Inc., including its WhatsApp and Instagram applications, and Twitter Inc. as significant competitors.

Last year, Snapchat filed confidentially for an IPO with the US Securities and Exchange Commission under the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act. The act is a venue for companies with revenue of less than $1 billion to file privately and work out details with the SEC away from the public eye.

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The IPO prospectus is the first opportunity for outsiders to get a closer look into a company that’s known for, among other things, its culture of secrecy. The next step will be the roadshow, in which chief executive Evan Spiegel and his management team will explain the company’s strategy and prospects to potential investors.

Benchmark Capital holds 12.7 percent of Class A shares and 22.8 percent of Class B shares, for a total voting power of 2.7 percent before the offering. Lightspeed Venture Partners holds 8.3 percent of Class A shares and 15 percent of Class B stock, for total voting power of 1.8 percent.

Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. are leading the offering with JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Deutsche Bank AG. Barclays PLC, Credit Suisse Group AG, and Allen & Co. are also on the deal.

Snap plans to list its Class A shares on the New York Stock Exchange, under the symbol SNAP.