April 20, 2024

DealBook: Heated Frenzy for Tech I.P.O.’s Fails to Ignite Freescale

Richard Beyer, right, of Freescale Semiconductor, watched trading at the New York Stock Exchange Thursday.Richard Drew/Associated PressRichard Beyer, right, of Freescale Semiconductor watched trading at the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday.

For the last several weeks, the market for initial public offerings looked red hot, thanks almost entirely to the eye-popping debut of the professional social network LinkedIn.

Shares in the Internet darling more than doubled in their first day of trading and have stayed in the stratosphere even after an 8 percent decline on Thursday.

But it takes more than a connection to technology to cook up a sizzling I.P.O., as Freescale Semiconductor learned this week.

Shares in the chip maker closed on Thursday at $18.33, up 1.8 percent from their offering price, after having risen even higher earlier in the day. But the company’s debut price of $18, set on Wednesday night, was at the bottom of an already reduced price range. It earned Freescale $783 million in proceeds, instead of the original $1 billion target.

Richard M. Beyer, Freescale’s chief executive, said in a telephone interview on Thursday morning that he was pleased with the stock’s performance, even at the reduced initial price.

“We seem to have priced it at a level that the investment community thinks is good,” he said.

Freescale was not even the worst-performing stock debut this week. Spirit Airlines, a low-cost carrier, saw its shares tumble 3.8 percent to $11.55 in its first day of trading on Thursday even after having cut its offering’s price range. And shares in the American International Group remain below the $29 price set for the long-awaited sale of stock owned by the federal government.

Mr. Beyer cited the choppier market for offerings that were not related to social media as the primary driver behind Freescale’s price range.

The experience of Freescale shows how the recent frothiness in the initial offering market has been confined in part to social-media companies like LinkedIn and Yandex, a Russian search engine whose $1.3 billion offering was the largest by an Internet company in the United States since Google’s debut in 2004.

“We did consider changing the name of our company to ‘Freescale Social Networking,’ “ Mr. Beyer joked.

Seriously, he added, “We’re O.K. with the fact that some of those social networking company I.P.O.’s have been doing much better, but those investments weren’t made with macroeconomics in mind.”

Freescale is only the latest company owned by private equity firms to seek a return to the public markets. Earlier this year, Nielsen, the ratings company; the hospital operator HCA; and the oil-and-gas pipeline company Kinder Morgan all held well-received offerings. While Nielsen’s stock remains well above the company’s offering price, shares in HCA and Kinder Morgan have since fallen below their debuts.

All told, initial offerings by buyout-backed companies total $13.9 billion so far this year, according to data from Thomson Reuters. They account for 63 percent of all I.P.O.’s in the United States.

None of Freescale’s private equity owners, including the Blackstone Group, the Carlyle Group, TPG Capital and Permira, sold shares in the offering, unlike other private equity-backed I.P.O.’s this year. Those owners are likely to wait until Freescale’s stock price rises before selling their holdings, hoping to eke out even a small profit.

Freescale’s offering is notable given the company’s reputation as one of the more troubled takeovers of the private-equity boom. It was acquired in 2006 by several buyout firms for $17.6 billion, or $40 a share.

That acquisition left the company with an enormous debt, which now stands at $7.6 billion. All of the proceeds of the initial offering will go to reducing that burden.

Freescale was also battered by the recession, which reduced demand for the products containing its chips like cars, networking equipment and consumer products.

The company reported a loss of more than $1 billion last year, though its revenue began to rise again after a slump in 2009.

Mr. Beyer said that one of Freescale’s biggest priorities was cutting its debt, since the company saves about $8 million in interest expense for every $100 million in obligations it pays off. After the I.P.O., Freescale’s interest expense will shrink to a little more than $500 million a year.

He added that a resurgence in two of Freescale’s core markets, autos and networking, was expected to continue this year, with more than 10 percent growth in the former and about 6 percent in the latter.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=85fd472bfc0253073d10103e2254b126

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