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GeoCities prices high

Reflecting investor enthusiasm, the Net community prices above its target range for its pending initial public offering.

Reflecting investor enthusiasm, GeoCities today set its initial public offering price at $17 a share--exceeding the high end of its pricing range--and said that it expects to raise $80.75 million.

Shares of GeoCities will begin trading tomorrow under the ticker "GCTY."

"The offering was under very heavy demand. The upward revision in price will serve...as an affirmation of investor demand," said David Menlow, president of the IPO Financial Network.

He added that GeoCities could have an opening performance similar to that of Broadcast.com, which more than doubled in price on its first day of trading

Menlow noted that if an Internet-related stock doesn't price at the high end of its pricing range or above, the stock likely will have a short-lived premium over the IPO price once it starts trading.

"If GeoCities falls from its opening price, then the Internet market will be transformed into the Inter-not market," he said.

Earlier today, GeoCities had raised its pricing range to between $14 and $16 a share, from its initial range of between $12 and $14 a share, according to a filing today with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company still plans to float out 4.75 million shares.

The online community is looking to go public at a time when tech issues, which have been the darlings of the recently sluggish IPO market, face some uncertainty given the rocky performance the stock markets have seen lately.

Nonetheless, IPO analysts said they expect the closely watched GeoCities offering to do well. For one thing, the company is one of the leaders in one of the hottest areas of the Net today: home-page building and hosting.

Today, GeoCities was ranked the eighth fastest-growing site for the first six months of the year by Media Metrix. According to the study, half of the top ten fastest-growing sites were ones that provide home-page building tools for members. (See related story)

While profit margins on individual pages can be slim, companies such as Tripod (owned by Lycos) and TheGlobe are using their sites to build entire online communities.

Community ultimately is another name for site loyalty, with the marketing theory behind such efforts being that once a Net user becomes loyal to a site, she will go there for all her cyberneeds, including e-commerce.

Sites have used email, chat, personalization, instant messaging, and other bells and whistles to lure users and hopefully get them to stick with one URL. Now, home pages have become a hot trend in the portal space because Net users love to be able to create their own personalized spaces.

Just last week, for example, America Online quietly rolled out a beta version of its own home page site, dubbed Hometown AOL.

In addition, rival portal site Excite also is expected to launch its own home-page offering soon.

GeoCities is one of less than two dozen companies this year to bump up the low end of its initial pricing range by more than 14 percent, said Richard Peterson, an IPO analyst with Securities Data. It is following in the footsteps of such companies as DoubleClick and Broadcast.com in increasing its range.

"The raising of the price is done to meet [investor] demand," Peterson added, noting that this year alone there have been 23 IPOs that averaged a 50.4 percent gain during their first days of trading.

One IPO that had been expected to price as early as tonight is e-commerce company Digital River, but the pricing has been delayed. The issue now is expected to be priced and to begin trading tomorrow. Also slated to go public in the coming weeks are eBay and interactive ad agency 24/7 Media.

While GeoCities has raised its initial price range, the same has not yet occurred for Digital River. Though this could signal less investor interest for Digital River than for GeoCities, Peterson said it also could mean simply that Digital River's stock will be less volatile on its first day of trading.