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).
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.