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Snap IPO: Stock of Snapchat Parent Pops More Than 40% in Market Debut

Shares of Snap Inc., the parent of Snapchat, jumped to $24 per share after it began trading Thursday in the year’s most-hyped initial public offering — 41% over its $17 opening price.

Snap began trading Thursday around 11:20 a.m. on the New York Stock Exchange, under the symbol “SNAP.” The Venice, Calif.-based company raised $3.4 billion in the IPO, with net proceeds of about $2.4 billion. With shares changing hands at north of $24 per share in early trading, the company has a valuation of more than $33 billion.

[UPDATE, 4:15 p.m. ET: Snap hit an intraday high of $26.05 per share (and a low of $23.50) before closing at $24.48, up 44% over the IPO pricing.]

Reflecting strong investor demand for the vanishing-message app maker, Snap on Wednesday priced shares for the IPO at $17 per share. That was above its previously projected $14-$16 range.

Investors obviously were even more eager to get a piece of Snap than the company estimated — undeterred by Snap’s steep losses and slowing growth of the Snapchat user base, which skews heavily toward teens and millennials. Last year, it reported sales of $405 million and a net loss of $515 million. Snapchat averaged 158 million daily active users for the fourth quarter of 2016, an increase of 48% year over year but up only 3% sequentially from 153 million in Q3.

The Snap IPO gives the company’s co-founders, CEO Evan Spiegel and CTO Bobby Murphy, stock holdings currently worth around $5 billion each. The two execs will retain control over all shareholder decisions for Snap — and investors buying stock in the IPO don’t have voting rights at all. In addition, Spiegel will receive an additional stock grant of 3% of all shares outstanding after the public offering.

Snap chairman Michael Lynton, who in January stepped down as CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, owns about 3 million of the company’s shares. Those are worth $72 million at $24 per share.

Facebook’s IPO in 2012 at $38 per share valued the company at $104 billion (it’s now worth nearly $400 billion). The biggest-ever U.S. initial public offering was Alibaba Group’s IPO two years ago, which gave it a valuation of nearly $170 billion. Meanwhile, Twitter’s IPO in 2013 at $26 per share yielded a $14.2 billion market cap — but after an initial spike its stock has languished well below early highs.

Snap calls itself a “camera company” and last month began selling $130 video-enabled sunglasses nationwide. But the glasses, called Spectacles, are specifically designed to record and share 10-second circular videos for Snapchat, which is the source of virtually all the company’s revenue to date.

Snap had enough pre-IPO demand that it could have gone out at $19 per share, according to a Bloomberg report Wednesday citing an anonymous source, but the company set the price at $17 because “executives wanted to ensure that shares would make a decent gain in their debut.”

Not everyone is bullish on Snap’s prospects. Pivotal Research analyst Brian Wieser initiated coverage of the stock with a “sell” rating and said it’s significantly overvalued “given the likely scale of its long-term opportunity and the risks associated with executing against that opportunity.” The analyst valued Snap at $10 per share based on financial estimates for 2017.

“Investors in Snap will be exposed to an upstart facing aggressive competition from much larger companies, with a core user base that is not growing by much and which is only relatively elusive,” Wieser wrote in a research note Thursday prior to the company’s shares going out.

Pictured above: The banner for the Snap Inc. IPO on the facade of the New York Stock Exchange in lower Manhattan.

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