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Tech Industry

Pets.com IPO is a dog

    E-tailer Pets.com (Nasdaq: IPET) decided to go to market ahead of schedule, but investors weren't taking shares home Friday. Near midday, Pets.com was at 11 1/16, barely above the IPO price of $11.

    Shares opened at 13 1/2. Pets.com wanted to mark its IPO territory before competitor Petsmart.com, which has also filed for an IPO, but the move didn't work.

    On Dec. 9, San Francisco's Pets.com filed an IPO with underwriters Merrill Lynch. According to most calendars, the IPO was slated for next week. The original estimated price range had been $9 to $11 a share.

    Investors may have noted Pets.com's financials. For the past three quarters, Pets.com's losses have increased rapidly; loss was $3.5 million for the three months ended June 30, $15.9 million for the three months ended September 30, and $42.4 million for the three months ended December 31. Sales have also grown, though not quite as dramatically. Sales in the company, just formed in February 1999, went from $39,000 to $568,000 to $5.2 million in the corresponding quarters.

    The company has an advertising agreement with Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) whereby it provides Pets.com with online promotions. Amazon.com also has a significant equity stake in the company, and will continue to own about 30.4 percent of its stock after this offering.

    In the next few weeks, the market will find out how the Pets.com experience will affect the competition. PetSmart.com (Nasdaq: PSCM), based in Pasadena, Calif., filed to raise a maximum of $115 million in an initial public offering under lead underwriter Salomon Smith Barney. The company is the ".com" joint venture of PetSmart (Nasdaq: PETM).

    Other than PetsMart.com, Pets.com's competitors include Petopia.com, Inc and PetStore.com. The company said its competitors, particularly in the case of PetsMart.com, have the advantage of leveraging the brand awareness of their pet retail store partner.