Los Angeles Business Journal

Car-Shopping Site Steers Investors Right on IPO

INTERNET: Analyst credits TrueCar for backing off higher price projections. By James Rufus Koren Monday, May 26, 2014

TrueCar Inc. helps consumers pay a fair price for a new car. And in lowering the price of its initial public offering, it helped investors pay a fair price, too.

The Santa Monica online car-shopping company priced shares for its May 15 public offering at $9, well below the $12 to $14 previously projected by the company. TrueCar shares, which started trading the next day, closed at $9.31 on May 22, indicating the IPO price was about right – and that the initial projected price was too high.

But in staying above the $9 mark, if only slightly, TrueCar is doing better than average: Earlier this month, investment bank Renaissance Capital in Greenwich, Conn., reported that more than half of the companies that have gone public this year trade for less than their initial offering price.

TrueCar is the only local firm to go public this year that currently trades above its IPO price. Century City private equity firm Ares Management went public May 1 at $19 a share, but the stock has traded for less since then. Playa Vista advertising platform Rubicon Project went public in April and traded above its $15 IPO price for a few weeks, but shares were changing hands at about $12 last week.

Ian Winer, director of equity trading at downtown L.A. brokerage Wedbush Securities, said investors over the past few months have grown skeptical of growth companies, preferring to put their money in more established firms. And that’s one reason shares of so many new public companies have fallen below their IPO price.

When investors were feeling more bullish about growth companies, Winer said those firms could command higher IPO prices. But the pendulum has swung in the other direction, giving investors more power and leading to TrueCar’s lower IPO.

“There’s no doubt the buyers are setting the prices now,” he said.

Trading below the IPO price can be a turn-off for investors, which is why Winer recommends that firms planning a public offering follow TrueCar’s example.

“I think it looks terrible when you price it too high and it immediately breaks the IPO price,” Winer said. “I think it always behooves the company to sell at a price where the IPO holds. Then you attract some new investors, you put up a good quarter or two and the whole story works.”