RealTime IT News

The Real March Madness

Don't look now, but with more than a week to go, an Internet IPO record already has been set in March.

Monday's S-1 filing by CRL Network Services, a Tier 1 ISP, brings to 27 the number of Internet companies that have registered this month to go public. The previous record of 25 was set in February.

With 11 IPO registrations in January, that makes 63 Internet companies so far in 1999 which have officially announced intentions to sell stock. (Two of these, Multex and Autoweb.com, began trading in the past week.)

Let's put this in perspective: Since April 2, 1996, when then-search engine Lycos launched the first "official" Internet IPO, 91 Internet companies have gone public through Wednesday. Throw in companies that went public before then and morphed into Internet plays - such as AOL, PSINet, Egghead.com and Open Text - and there are about 110 public companies currently in the Internet space.

If the pace set so far this year keeps up, there could be more than 200 Internet IPOs hitting Wall Street in 1999. Of course, that's not likely since, hot as it seems right now, the Internet IPO market does experience dry spells, as it did as recently as last fall, when only five companies went public from September through November.

"The momentum is very powerful right now, but it probably will slow down in the summer" said Tom Taulli, author of Investing in IPOs. "The IPO market is known for its manic-depressive personality, and people do get exhausted with all these IPOs in play."

Still, it's entirely possible that the number of public Internet companies will more than double this year. The big question is how many Internet plays the market can bear. The guess here is that we haven't even come close to approaching the limit, especially as more individual investors flood the market via online trading sites (two of which, DLJdirect and Wit Capital, filed their own IPOs in the past week).

Aiming higher

IVillage did it. So did Autoweb.com. Now Critical Path, the e-mail outsourcing company profiled in Tuesday's Midday Report, is raising the price range of its IPO.

Originally slated to price between $9 and $11, Critical Path now intends to price its IPO in the $14-$16 range. The company plans to price Thursday night and begin trading Friday under the Nasdaq ticker symbol CPTH.