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HolidayBuyer's Guide
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IPOs to go forward despite unstable market

Despite a continued sell-off in the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index, underwriters are proceeding with plans to launch several IPOs this week.

Despite a continued sell-off in the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index, underwriters are proceeding with plans to launch several IPOs this week.

Initial public offerings often are delayed when market conditions become unsettled, as they are now. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost more than 600 points last week, and the Nasdaq suffered a similar drubbing, compounded by a nearly 42-point decline today.

Some high-profile IPOs are still scheduled to reach the market this week, however, and they may perform well if the recent success of Women.com Networks or the apparent interest in the IPO for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia is any indication.

Despite a terrible day for the overall market, shares in Women.com, which operates a network of Web sites geared toward women, closed their first day of trading last Friday at 18.5--up 85 percent from the offer price of $10 per share. The shares were up another 1.75 today.

"Women.com has held up against its IPO price," said Kathleen Smith, portfolio manager with Renaissance Capital's IPO Fund. She added that Women.com's success might bolster investor confidence, which has been shaken lately by a number of IPOs that fell below their offer price the day after hitting the public markets.

Among this week's IPO crop, analysts have picked a handful of companies that also could be embraced by investors.

Martha Stewart Living today priced its shares at $18, the high end of its pricing range. Earlier today the media company increased its price range to $16 to $18 a share from $13 to $15. Shares in the company are expected to trade tomorrow under the ticker "MSO."

The company produces books, magazines, a television show highlighting Stewart's handy tips, and a Web site filled with her how-to tips and products for sale. Martha Stewart Living will raise $129.6 million in capital, based on the 7.2 million shares that will be floated. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter is the lead underwriter.

Webvan, one of largest IPOs of the year, also is scheduled to price this week. It could not be confirmed today whether the online grocer's planned offering will occur, however.

Meanwhile, Sycamore Networks, which allows companies to create high-speed data networks, is expected to be hot, Smith said.

The company is expected to price on Thursday and to begin public trading Friday under the ticker "SCMR."

"It has unbelievable interest in its products, and the founders were also from Cascade Communications, so they have a lot of expertise," Smith noted.

Cascade, a provider of wide-area-network switches, generated a lot of attention in the networking industry when it was acquired by Ascend Communications in a $3.7 billion stock deal.

Sycamore's cofounder and chairman, Gururaj Deshpande, also was a founder of Cascade. And many of Sycamore's executives formerly worked at Cascade.

Sycamore expects to raise up to $130 million in the offering, based on the high side of its $18 to $20 range and the 6.5 million shares it will offer.

The company generated $11.3 million in revenues and posted a loss of $19.5 million for the year ended July 31, compared with no revenues and a loss of $693,000 in the previous year. Sycamore was founded in February 1998. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter is the lead underwriter.

Wireless all the rage
Wireless-related companies Aether Systems and Bsquare also are expected to capture investor attention because "investors are interested in wireless Internet access," Smith said.

Bsquare is expected to price tomorrow and begin trading Wednesday. Information on Aether Systems' pricing schedule is not expected until after the markets close today.

Aether Systems provides wireless data services and systems that allow customers to use wireless handheld devices. The company is seeking to raise up to $90 million, based on an offering of 6 million shares at the high end of its $13 to $15 range. Merrill Lynch is the lead underwriter. The company's ticker will be "AETH."

Bsquare provides software and engineering services for Windows CE-based devices such as TV set-top boxes, industrial devices, gaming systems, and consumer appliances. Bsquare hopes to raise up to $56 million.

The company, which tapped Credit Suisse First Boston to be the underwriter, is floating 4 million shares at a range of $12 to $14. It will trade under the ticker "BSQR."

NaviSite also is expected to receive investor interest because of its connection with CMGI, Smith said. CMGI is a majority investor in NaviSite, which offers Web site and application hosting, and management services.

The company's IPO is expected to raise up to $66 million. In the offering, which is being underwritten by BancBoston Robertson Stephens, the company will float 5.5 million shares for an expected price of $10 to $12.

NaviSite is expected to price Thursday and begin trading Friday under the ticker "NAVI."

Sizing up the coming months, Richard Peterson, an analyst with Securities Data, said there are six weeks left before the IPO market slows down for the holidays.

"The next six weeks are the window of opportunity for IPOs. It slows down after Thanksgiving, and December is one of the slower months, while January is the slowest," he said.