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ImproveNet crawls up in debut

ImproveNet (Nasdaq: IMPV) inched up 3/8 to 16 3/8 after it priced shares at $16 each, the top of their estimated range of $14 to $16 a share for trading Thursday. The online home improvement company enters a crowded field of competitors.

The company's losses have grown at a far greater rate than revenue. For the year ended December 31, the company had a net loss of $36.5 million on revenue of $2.1 million, compared to loss of $4.8 million on revenue of $258 000 in 1998.

ImproveNet's competitors include local referral businesses and online referral companies such as ServiceMagic.com, iMandi, iCastle, repairnet, HomesSpud, OurHouse.com, Handyman Online, Bid Express and Contractor.com.

Potential competitors such as The Home Depot (NYSE: HD), Lowe's and Sears Roebuck & Company (NYSE: S) could launch Web sites similar to ImproveNet's. Remodel.com, recently launched by HomeStore.com (Nasdaq: HOMS), offers a matching service.

Homestore.com, which is also behind Realtor.com, HomeBuilder.com and SpringStreet.com made a mediocre debut in August when its 7 million shares priced at $20 and went to $22. But since its IPO, the company has matched Lycos Inc. (Nasdaq: LCOS) in terms of market capitalization.

The deal is being underwritten by CS First Boston, and co-managed by Robertson Stephens and E*Offering.

In other IPO action:

  • Philippine power chip assembler, Psi Technologies (Nasdaq; PSIT) also priced its IPO above the range at $16 for trading Thursday.

  • Nordic broadband communications carrier, Tele1 Europe (Nasdaq: TEUR) priced its 33 million share offering above the original $14-16 range at $18.50.
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