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Spotify Stock Pops in IPO Debut, Before Cooling Down to $26 Billion Market Cap

UPDATED, 4:02 p.m. ET: After Spotify opened with a bang in its stock-market debut Tuesday, the stock drifted down 10% — but still gave the music streamer a higher-than-expected valuation.

Spotify opened at $165.90 per share, 25% higher than the top end of private stock sales disclosed by the company, giving the company a market valuation of $29.5 billion. Shares began trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday at about 12:43 p.m. ET under the ticker symbol “SPOT.”

The stock closed at $149.01 per share. That’s still well above what Spotify has disclosed for private stock sales from Jan. 1-March 14, 2018, which had varied widely — ranging between $48.93 and $132.50 per share.

Spotify’s current market cap of $26.4 billion makes it more valuable than CBS, Twitter, Snap, Sprint, Dish Network and Viacom.

The music streamer’s unconventional direct-listing IPO — which bypassed Wall Street banking firms as underwriters — is expected to be one of the biggest tech offerings of the year. Spotify isn’t raising any capital with the IPO. Rather, it’s designed to let existing investors cash out their holdings; those include Sony Music Entertainment, which owns 5.7% of outstanding shares, and Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group, which each hold around 4%. With the IPO, Spotify shareholders are eligible to sell up to 55.7 million regular shares, representing 31% of outstanding shares.

In less than 15 minutes, more than 10 million Spotify shares had been traded. About 29.8 million shares total were traded in just over three hours on Tuesday. The NYSE had set a “reference price” Monday of $132 per share as a placeholder prior to the initial public offering.

Founded in 2006, Spotify has never been profitable and its rivals include Silicon Valley heavyweights Apple, Amazon and Google. But at least out of the gate, investors displayed enthusiasm to own a piece of the Sweden-based firm. Spotify is the No. 1 global music-streaming provider with an estimated 42% worldwide market share in 2016.

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek, in a blog post Monday, said he expects the company to experience “ups and downs as we continue to innovate and establish new capabilities.” He tried to convey a business-as-usual air, saying about the IPO that “our focus isn’t on the initial splash” and that he hoped Spotify’s public-market debut does not become the most important day in its history.

“Spotify is not raising capital, and our shareholders and employees have been free to buy and sell our stock for years,” Ek wrote. “So while tomorrow puts us on a bigger stage, it doesn’t change who we are, what we are about, or how we operate.”

For 2017, the company generated around $5 billion in revenue in 2017 (4.1 billion euros), versus $3.6 billion in 2016. Its net loss for 2017 more than doubled, to $1.5 billion (1.2 billion euros).

Spotify has fans on Wall Street based on its potential growth. “Spotify is the global leader and has sustainable advantages,” RBC Capital Markets’ Mark Mahaney wrote in a March 29 note, initiating coverage with an “outperform” rating and a $220-per-share price target. A valuation of nearly $40 billion for Spotify is “highly reasonable,” he added.

Even after the IPO, Ek and co-founder Martin Lorentzon will very likely maintain majority control of Spotify even if they sell a portion of their holdings. As of March 21, Ek controlled 37.0% of the Spotify’s total voting power and Lorentzon controlled 43.5%. Ek directly owned 15.6 million shares (8.8% of outstanding shares) and Lorentzon held 21.7 million (12.2%).

Spotify operates in 65 countries and territories. As of the end of 2017, it tallied 157 million monthly active users and 71 million premium subscribers. It restated user metrics two weeks ago, eliminating 2 million users from its MAU total to account for fraudulent streams from freeloaders using hacked apps.

Chinese internet giant Tencent owns 9.1% of Spotify’s outstanding shares, while Spotify holds 9% equity in Tencent Music Entertainment. The parties have agreed to retain their ownership in the shares until at least December 2020.

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