Baby Steps

Looks like it will take more than a half-point reduction in interest rates
in order for IPOs to revive. By Friday of last week, investors were once
again concerned about the prospects of upcoming corporate earnings (or lack
thereof).

The pressure was too much for
Noviant, which decided to withdraw its
IPO last week. The company is a provider of infrastructure products for
consulting firms.

Another casualty was
Mercata. The
company is an online retailer that provides low-price comparison shopping
for consumers. Unfortunately, the company was losing huge amounts of money.

Being backed by Paul Allen was no help, either. Alas, the company was
unable to raise any more cash and, as a result, had to withdraw its offering
and liquidate itself from existence.

BTI Telecom
decided to nix its offering, as well. The company is a provider of technologies
for voice and data services.

Yet, some companies are gearing up to go public in January. One is
Peets Coffee & Tea,
which is expected to price its offering during the week of January 22.

It was in April 1966 that Alfred Peet started his first store (a few blocks
from Berkeley). Now, the company has 57 stores in four states.

The company is known as being off-beat (hey, its heritage is, after all,
from Berkeley during the hippie 1960s). So, it makes sense that the company
is using a new-fangled way to launch its IPO; that is, using the OpenIPO
system. Basically, this uses an auction technology to distribute shares.

Another deal set to price on the week of January 22 is
Align Technology.
The company is a developer of the so-called Invisalign System.

If you ever had braces on your teeth, you know how miserable it can be.
Well, Invisalign is much better, using clear, removable appliances to move
teeth gently (why didn’t they think of this when I was in high-school?)

About 200 million in the U.S. have some sort of tooth misalignment. But less
than one percent seek orthodontic treatment. The market, though, is about
$7 billion.

The company plans to issue 10 million shares at the price range of $14-$16.
The lead underwriter is Deutsche Banc Alex Brown and the proposed ticker
symbol is ALGN.

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