Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search


Zynga goes public - investors eye CEO, growth potential with doubts

Zynga was the talk of the New York Stock Exchange when they rank the opening bell but after taking an immediate 5 percent hit, investors are reassessing Zynga as being overhyped.

By Liana B. Baker and Alistair BarrReuters / December 16, 2011

Zynga IPO excitement short-lived: The corporate logo for Zynga is shown on an electronic billboard at the Nasdaq MarketSite, Friday, in New York. Stock in the San Francisco company began trading at Nasdaq, Friday following its IPO but saw prices drop 5 percent by the closing bell.

Mark Lennihan/AP

Enlarge

Online games developer Zynga Inc scored badly as it went public on Friday, dashing hopes for the year's hottest tech IPO, as investors frowned on its over-reliance on Facebook, dimming growth prospects, and outsized control by CEO Mark Pincus.

Skip to next paragraph

Zynga's stock fell 5 percent below its $10 initial public offering price to close at $9.50 on Nasdaq on Friday, dealing losses to IPO buyers used to racking up gains on a stock's first day of trading.

Investors had eagerly awaited the IPO as a way to get a slice of Facebook's growth before the leading social networking website goes public, possibly in 2012. Zynga makes money on Facebook by selling virtual items such as jewelry and poker chips in its games such as "FarmVille" and "CityVille."

At least one analyst said on Friday that some investors may have been turned off by Chief Executive Mark Pincus' large voting stake and control over the company. He has a special class of shares that grants him 37 percent voting power even though his equity stake is much lower, and public shareholders will have less than 2 percent of votes.

"We believe that having a CEO/owner-controlled board is particularly dangerous for investors in young companies," said Cowen and Co analyst Doug Creutz.

Creutz, who has a neutral rating on the stock, added that history is full of examples of CEOs who have built young companies but cannot manage them when they mature.

Asked about his voting shares, Pincus told Reuters he decided to retain such huge control over Zynga because he believed from the start that he was the best person to lead the company.

"Investors who want to see the company deliver long-term value are going to be better served by the fact that I can continue to ensure the company keeps its focus on the long term and we don't let short-term swings and opportunities reduce that," he said in an interview.

Based on Friday's closing share price, the value of Pincus' holdings fell to $1.05 billion from $1.1 billion at the IPO price.

Friday's flop stunned investors who had expected a strong showing because the company is profitable, unlike other recent high profile Internet IPOs such as Groupon and Pandora .

"I was stunned when I saw this. This is a disaster for them. The way you're supposed to price deals is to give investors a 15 percent IPO discount to compensate them for the risk of backing a relatively new company," said Dan Niles, chief investment officer of AlphaOne Capital Partners, who did not buy shares.

"It makes me wonder about the underlying health of the market. IPOs like this can change the whole tenor of the market," he added.

Investors said Zynga's stock performance could hurt other private companies in the pipeline such as Yelp and even Facebook. Some investors regard Zynga's IPO as a proxy for Facebook, because 95 percent of its $828 million in revenue in the past nine months comes from Mark Zuckerberg's social network.

Read Comments

View reader comments | Comment on this story