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MP3.com flies in trading debut

Shares of MP3.com close up more than 126 percent following a wild first day out.

Shares of MP3.com closed up more than 126 percent following a wild first day out.

The San Diego-based company's shares ended the day up 35.31 at 63.31 as nearly 16 million shares changed hands on the Nasdaq Stock Market. Earlier, the shares reached 105, and MP3.com's market value touched $6.9 billion--more than that of "Big Five" record company EMI's $6.4 billion.

MP3.com chief executive Michael Robertson's stake in the company was worth $2.66 billion at today's high.

The highly See related Newsmaker: 
Michael Robertson anticipated offering, which priced $2 over the top of its range yesterday at $28 per share, had been raised from a $9 to $11 per share range to $16 to $18 and then to $24 to $26.

According to a filing yesterday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company generated about $1.2 million in revenue last year and $665,785 in the quarter that ended March 31, 1999. Its operating losses were $219,768 and about $1.5 million for those periods, respectively. In addition, the company ballooned from 8 employees as of December 31, 1998, to 142 on June 30, 1999.

MP3.com, which is trading under the symbol "MPPP," has generated tremendous buzz, as Robertson has waged a war of words with the mainstream record companies over MP3, the audio compression format that MP3.com neither owns nor controls, but which enjoys great popularity among early adopters of music downloads.

The interest surrounding MP3.com gained it a $45 million investment from Cox Interactive Media in June. Then, earlier this month, the firm got another boost as French Net holding company Group Arnault said it would buy almost 27 percent of the shares sold to investors.

But many analysts remain skeptical that MP3.com will be able to maintain its valuation.

"MP3.com [shares are] going to be worth less than $6 in six months," Mark Hardie, senior analyst at Forrester Research, said in an earlier interview. "It's going to go out huge and then go through the floor. MP3.com is just not going to be a major player under their current model."

MP3.com's IPO came as the mainstream record business has begun joining the music download fray. Just yesterday, for example, MTV Networks Online said it will take a stake in Diamond Multimedia subsidiary RioPort to expand MTV Networks' offerings to include secure music downloads.

And Universal Music, another Big Five record company, said it will make its content available for downloading when the next generation of portable devices is ready, because they will employ new copyright protection technology.

Another online music firm, Liquid Audio--which went public earlier this month--closed up 4.6 percent today at 31.25. Earlier the shares reached 35.5 as the market turned its eye to Internet music firms.

Credit Suisse First Boston acted as lead manager for the MP3.com offering, with Hambrecht & Quist acting as co-lead manager. BancBoston Robertson Stephens and Charles Schwab were comanagers for the underwriters.

Bloomberg contributed to this report.

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