RealTime IT News

Women.com IPO Turns Heads On Wall Street

There's a catfight brewing in the Internet stocks world.

It pits former IPO star iVillage (IVIL) against Women.com Networks, which began trading Friday. Offering 3.75 million shares at $10 each, Women.com saw its stock surge to 23 3/8 in early trading. The company's Nasdaq ticker is (WOMN), and lead underwriter is Morgan Stanley Dean Witter.

The stakes in the battle are supremacy in the online battle to attract women Web users, prized as a growing and highly coveted (read: they spend a lot) demographic.

There are other contenders, such as Oxygen Media and the Lifetime television network, which is aggressively growing its 'Net presence. But the real contest comes down to iVillage and Women.com Networks, which is the result of a merger between Women.com and Hearst's HomeArts.com.

Both iVillage and Women.com Networks offer channel-based content and community features targeted toward women in the 25- to-49-year-old demographic. Channels are divided into broad topics such as Career, Family, Fitness, Money, Horoscopes, etc.

In terms of audience and revenue, iVillage currently has the upper hand. Media Metrix (MMXI) numbers from August show that iVillage.com attracted 5 million visitors, compared to 4.6 million for Women.com. That's close enough to be competitive, but iVillage has increased its lead since April, gaining 916,000 unique monthly visitors to Women.com's 741,000.

iVillage has $14.6 million through the first two quarters of this year, well ahead of Women.com Networks' $9.4 million. Both have net losses through Q2, with iVillage at $34.7 million and Women.com at $30.4 million.

Much of Women.com's red ink can be attributed to its struggle to close the mindshare gap. The company spent $17.3 million on sales and advertising in the first two quarters alone.

Women.com also has lined up partnerships and strategic agreements with a number of prominent Internet players, including America Online Inc. (AOL), Infoseek (SEEK), Lycos Inc. (LCOS) and Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO).

Despite its revenue and eyeball lead, iVillage is in a position to be legitimately challenged. After one of the year's most notable IPOs -- gaining 234% to close at $80.13 in its March debut - the company is no longer a market heartthrob. Its stock hit $119 7/8 in April and plummeted through mid-June, trading as low as $25 =. It has been below $40 for the past six weeks, trading Friday afternoon at $30 >. With a market cap of $807 million, iVillage is no industry giant.

Now Women.com has an opportunity to become the hot Internet stock in its gender sector.


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