November 20, 2015 / 7:00 PM / 2 years ago

Investors 'swipe right' in Tinder-owner Match's debut

(Reuters) - Shares of media mogul Barry Diller’s Match Group Inc MTCH.O, the owner of popular dating site Match.com and mobile app Tinder, jumped as much as 24 percent in their market debut on Thursday, valuing the company at $3.57 billion.

Greg Blatt, chairman of Match Group, takes part in celebrations for the company's IPO at the NASDAQ stock exchange, New York November 20, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Match Group, which touts itself as the world’s No. 1 dating company, is seen as the crown jewel of Diller’s media properties and has driven parent IAC/InterActiveCorp’s IACI.O profit and revenue in recent quarters.

The U.S. online romance market, worth more than $2 billion a year, has thrived as instant messaging, photo-sharing and geolocation services grow in popularity.

One of Match Group’s most popular offerings is Tinder, a mobile app on which people “swipe right” or “swipe left” to signal their willingness – or not – to meet prospective partners.

The company’s solid opening, along with the stellar debut of mobile payments company Square Inc SQ.N on Thursday, offered hope to startups hoping to go public. Square’s shares rose as much as 64 percent in their debut.

“It’s very good that Square went public and moved up because now people will be more open to tech stocks next year,” said Francis Gaskins, president of research firm IPO Desktop.

Gaskins said shares of both Square and Match Group had risen as their offerings had been priced low. Shares of Match were priced at $12 each, at the lower end of the expected range of $12-$14.

The stock traded at $14.51 at 1:21 p.m. ET on the Nasdaq.

Both companies have come to the market at a time when several others were forced to discount or delay IPOs. More than 50 companies have withdrawn plans to go public in the United States this year, according to Thomson Reuters data.

PROUD PARENT

Match Group, which also owns OkCupid and OurTime, plans to use the $400 million proceeds to repay debt owed to IAC, which retains a stake of about 86 percent in Match Group.

Shares of IAC fell as much as 2.6 percent before easing back to trade down 0.5 percent.

Benchmark Co analyst Daniel Kurnos called the stock move “ridiculous”, saying IAC’s majority shareholding in Match should have guaranteed a boost, and that some investors were clearly selling IAC for Match.

With more than 59 million monthly active users and about 4.7 million paid members as of Sept. 30, Match Group operates in 190 countries and 38 languages.

That said, IPOs in the Web romance business have been rare.

Infidelity website Ashley Madison had hoped to raise up to $200 million this year, but seems to have shelved those plans after hackers released salacious details of more than a million users in August.

JPMorgan Chase & Co, Allen & Co and Bank of America Merrill Lynch were among underwriters for the offering.

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