The IPO season for Massachusetts companies got off to a booming start Friday when Waltham-based Care.com rose nearly 43 percent in its first day of trading as a public company to close at $24.30 on the New York Stock Exchange.
Care.com is an online marketplace for personal care services, ranging from baby-sitting and elder care to dog walking. About 5.2 million families and 4.5 million caregivers worldwide are registered with Care.com; about 1 million paying subscribers have used it to find qualified care providers in their neighborhoods.
“We are by far the market leader,” said Care.com’s founder and chief executive, Sheila Lirio Marcelo, “and we are really addressing a very important need for families.”
Care.com was founded in 2006 and has raised $111 million in venture funding from several firms, including Matrix Partners and Trinity Ventures. The company has yet to turn a profit, but posted revenues of $48.5 million in 2012 and $59 million for the first nine months of 2013.
The offering gives Care.com a market capitalization of $723 million. The company’s shares were priced Thursday night at $17, and Care.com raised about $91 million from the sale. Marcelo said that some of the money will be spent on marketing to broaden Care.com’s audience, and other funds may be used to buy competitors. Care.com made three acquisitions in 2012 and a fourth last year.
Care.com’s IPO was the eighth so far in 2014, and the best performing of the bunch. Kathleen Smith, principal at Renaissance Capital LLC, an IPO investment advisory firm in Greenwich, Conn., predicted that 2014 will be a strong year for new stock offerings. “Investors are looking for top line growth, real growth,” said Smith, and so are backing new, fast-growing businesses, especially digital technology and biotech companies.
Meanwhile, venture capital firms are eager to cash in on their investments. “We’re looking at a huge backlog of companies,” said Smith. “Last year there were 222 IPOs. We think we’ll get much higher than that” in 2014.
Bruce Booth, a partner at Atlas Venture in Cambridge, said the boom will also include many local biotech firms. “Eleven or 12 companies are on the road right now” pitching their shares to likely underwriters, Booth said. “I think there’s a big demand for the next generation of exciting growth stories on the part of public equity investors.”
But the massive stock market losses of the past two days could introduce worry among investors. “The stock market drop over the last few days will have a negative impact,” said Smith. “It will cause investors to seek price discounts on the scheduled deals and may very well cause some deals to be postponed or pulled.”