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THE DAY AHEAD: May IPO calendar may be a mirage

If the calendar for initial public offerings holds, May could be a blowout month for companies hitting the market. Analysts, however, said many of the 67 companies in the pipeline will never make it out the door.

The long list of companies going public is a function of two events. For starters, many companies have pushed off IPOs in hopes of better timing. In addition, there's a big glut of companies in registration.

Analysts said two things have to happen to break the IPO logjam. The market volatility has to subside and there needs to be a break-out IPO to get investors' attention again. "Preferably, we'd have both," said Randall Roth, an analyst at Renaissance Capital. "There has to be something to get investors excited."

Good luck. Investors have just about had it with many IPOs. Dozens of IPOs are trading well below their initial prices. The worst of the worst -- Drkoop.com (Nasdaq: KOOP), Fashionmall.com (Nasdaq: FASH), Pets.com (Nasdaq: IPET), Mothernature.com (Nasdaq: MTHR), Musicmaker.com (Nasdaq: HITS) and E-Stamp (Nasdaq: ESTM) -- are all down more than 70 percent from their offering prices.

That glut will limit the number of IPOs hitting the market in May. "The calendar is artificially inflated," said Roth. "A lot of companies are staying ready just in case things pick up."

And if the market doesn't pick up? It doesn't take much to predict a big June glut too. "There's a huge pipeline," said Roth. "I don't think it has ever been as big as it is now."

Here are a few interesting IPOs on deck in May:

  • Playboy.com (Proposed ticker: PBOY) -- The Web spin-off from Playboy magazine (NYSE: PLA) has a big brand behind it. The company reported revenue of $13.6 million and a loss of $11.3 million. Playboy.com will get some press because of the adult entertainment angle, but still faces challenges. Playboy.com's site appeals to young men, but other offerings that target this audience such as Snowball.com (Nasdaq: SNOW) have flopped.

    Playboy.com competes with Web sites that cater to the young male demographic. The company cited sports, entertainment, adult-oriented and online gaming sites as competition. That list would include every company from Sportsline (Nasdaq: SPLN) to eUniverse (Nasdaq: EUNI). The number of shares and price range hasn't been set yet.

  • Kozmo.com (Proposed ticker: KZMO) -- This company sells instant gratification by delivering munchies and videos to your door in six major markets. Kozmo has big expansion plans, but faces stiff competition from online grocers such as Homegrocer.com (Nasdaq: HOMG), Webvan (Nasdaq: WBVN) and Streamline.com (Nasdaq: SLNE), two companies whose IPOs didn't impress. The company hasn't set the number of shares or price range. Maybe Kozmo will find some revenue before it sets the IPO terms. For 1999, Kozmo lost $26.4 million on sales of $3.5 million.

  • Handspring (Proposed ticker: HSPG) -- This Palm Inc. (Nasdaq: PALM) competitor hasn't set a price range or number of shares, but could hit the markets in late May. It has a strong brand and could build buzz quickly. For the six months ended Jan 1, the company reported sales of $15.8 million and a loss of $20.5 million. One wild card: Handspring is dwarfed by Palm, which couldn't match its pre-IPO hype in terms of performance. TDAIN
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