RealTime IT News

IPOs Zoom Higher; B2B Buzz Continues

Three high profile Internet companies debuted on Friday. FreeMarkets Inc. and eSpeed Inc. took part in the sizzling IPO market while natural products provider, MotherNature.com, wasn't as fortunate in its debut. Business-to-business commerce continued to be the buzz on the street.

internet.com's Internet Stock Index closed up 16.62, or 2.03 percent, to 835.72, the Nasdaq Composite added 26.11, closing to 3620.28 and the Dow Jones industrial average surged ahead 89.91 to 11224.70.

FreeMarkets Inc. (FMKT) soared 232, or 483 percent, to 280 in its first day. The company sold 3.6 million shares at $48. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter were lead underwriters. Bear Stearns & Co. took the unusual step of initiating coverage on FreeMarkets before its debut, setting a $300 price target.

FreeMarkets crates customized business-to-business online auctions for buyers of industrial parts, raw materials and commodities. The company's online auctions created $1.4 billion of purchase orders for the nine months ended Sept. 30. Still, sales for the same period were $13 million.

eSpeed Inc. (ESPD) flew up 21-15/16 to 43-15/16. The company, which operates electronic marketplaces allowing businesses to trade among each other, priced 8.5 million shares at $22 per share through lead underwriter Warburg Dillon Read.

MotherNature.com (MTHR) sank 2-11/16 to 10-5/16 in its first day of trading. The online retailer of natural products sold 4.1 million shares at $13 each.

America Online Inc. (AOL) gained 5-1/4 to 91-1/2 amid reports the company may be eyeing an alliance with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT). Analysts say an announcement is imminent that would have AOL setting up kiosks in Wal-Mart stores. A hook-up with AOL would help Wal-Mart advance its Internet strategy which the company is set to unveil early next year. Both companies refused to comment on the reports.

Ticketmaster Online- City Search (TMCS) climbed 3-7/8 to 43-5/8. Donaldson Lufkin Jenrette's Jamie Kiggen upgraded the stock from a "market perform" to a "buy" and set a $70 price target.

(Editor's Note: The second part of Luke Fronefield's interview with VerticalNet Chief Executive Officer Mark Walsh will be posted later Friday. Click here to read Part I.)

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