Archive for May 18th, 2011

Article from SFGate.

“LinkedIn Corp. raised the expected price of its initial public offering by $10, to a new range of $42 to $45 per share, making it even more overvalued by any conventional metric.

In my Sunday column (sfg.ly/k0PpDv), I pointed out that LinkedIn was going public at valuations that far exceed established tech companies such as Google, Apple and Amazon – and that was based on its previous expected IPO range of $32 to $35.

At $45 per share, LinkedIn would trade at roughly 17 times its 2010 revenues and 100 times its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, according to Morningstar analyst Rick Summer. That metric, dubbed EBITDA, is seen as a proxy for cash flow. With just $15.4 million in 2010 profit, LinkedIn’s price-to-earnings ratio is meaningless.

By comparison, Google is trading at just under six times revenue and about 14 times EBITDA, Summer says.

LinkedIn still plans to sell between 7.8 million and 9 million shares, which would raise up to $406 million and give it a market value of up to $4.3 billion.

The Mountain View company, which operates an online network for professionals, is expected to set a final IPO price tonight and begin trading Thursday under the ticker LNKD.

Investors are often willing to pay inflated price-to-sales or price-to-cash-flow multiples for fast-growing companies like LinkedIn, Summer says. However, for a higher-risk situation such as LinkedIn, you could argue that investors should be paying a lower multiple.

Less than 10 percent of the company’s shares will trade publicly, which could keep the price up in the short term if demand runs high. But eventually, the venture capitalists and insiders who own the rest of the shares will want to unload some and that could send the price down.

As the first major U.S. social-networking company to go public, LinkedIn could become a favorite of investors who like “pure-play investable themes,” Summer says.

But that also makes it hard to come up with an appropriate value for the company. “This is not an industry we understand incredibly well,” he adds.

Unlike the dot-com companies of yore, some investors argue that social-networking companies deserve lofty valuations because they have “real businesses and real business models,” Summer says. He agrees that LinkedIn has a strong business model and a competitive advantage. “But that’s like looking at a house and saying, ‘It’s livable, it has four bedrooms and two bathrooms. It’s worth any price because it’s a real house.’ ”

Read more here.

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