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Paris Bourse Halts Trading on Artprice.Com IPO

Paris' Nouveau Marché halted trading twice Monday for the IPO of the art-market database company Artprice.com, due to demand that drastically outstripped available shares.

The Nouveau Marché reportedly received requests for some 45 million Artprice.com shares, while the company was offering only 1.15 million. By midday, the share price, initially fixed at 19.06 Euros (US$19.4), had soared beyond the maximum threshold of 42.88 euros (US$43.61), set by ParisBourse authorities after the IPO was postponed Friday due to overwhelming response.

In the IPO prospectus, the Bourse Operations Commission warned that a large portion of the company's sales forecast was based on new services and technologies susceptible to delays.

"Furthermore, rapid and unpredictable trends in data-transmission technology represent the danger that the company's technologies might prove incompatible," the commission said.

However, investors seemed unfazed by this dire outlook and more swayed by Artprice.com's record and confidence.

Created in 1997, Artprice.com sells economic data about art sales made at public auction. The world's largest such database, it has more than 500 domain name servers, linking 2,200 auctioneers in 40 countries, selling works by 170,000 artists, the company said.

In 1970, 90 percent of the art market was controlled by galleries and art professionals, and 10 percent by auctioneers, the company said. In 1998, auctioneers controlled 70 percent of transactions involving works valued at more than FF100,000 (U.S. $15,625).

According to Artprice, the world art market could reach U.S. $17 billion this year, up from about $U.S. 8 billion in 1998.

"We expect our growth to parallel the market's exponential expansion," the company said.

After the IPO, about 61 percent of Artprice.com's capital will be held by Serveur, a 15-year-old database publishing group headed by Thierry Ehrmann, who also founded Artprice.com. Some 20 percent will belong to Europ@web, the investment fund owned by the Arnault Group, and the public will hold about 16.8 percent.