Twitter filed papers for its initial public offering (IPO). The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission allowed the filing to be essentially secret because of rules that apply to companies with revenue of less than $1 billion. Odd, since Twitter probably has nothing to hide. The IPO will go more smoothly than any in history. Twitter, its underwriter Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) and either Nasdaq or NYSE need to show the markets that the Facebook Inc. (FB) IPO problems were an anomaly.
Twitter will be the most visible IPO among Web 2.0 companies since the one for Facebook. Twitter is more visible that Groupon Inc. (GRPN), which stumbled because of misstated numbers, and Zynga Inc. (ZNGA), which was considered a subset of Facebook. With a claimed 200 million users, Twitter has become one of the most widely used Internet sites in the world. The financial world's focus will be fixed firmly on Twitter's profit and loss statement, to assess its value, and on its IPO, to see whether investment banks, an exchange and company management can take a company public without a single mistake.
Nasadaq will try to snag the Twitter listing to reclaim its honor. It was blamed, at least in part, for the breakdown of the Facebook IPO, which cost some investors dearly. The hours just after the listing was supposed to start were chaotic. The chance to trade the stock was nearly two hours late. Then orders were not filled. The stock fell and barely made it back to the IPO price when trading closed. After the debacle, some people blamed Facebook's chief financial officer for pushing too many shares into the market. Others blamed the bankers who were supposed to create a smooth transition in the early going.
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Nasdaq has had other problems since, which have undermined Wall Street's confidence. It seems like every other day the systems that keep trading seamless have fallen apart. Regulators are in the midst of finding the problem. Nasdaq management apologized, as if that mattered.
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NYSE will try to steal the Twitter IPO from Nasdaq, which is the traditional place to list tech IPOs. NYSE will argue to Twitter, its management and bankers that its system is better built than Nasdaq's. What happened to Facebook cannot happen to IPOs on the NYSE. It does have a case, which may be strong enough to turn the heads of Twitter management.
No matter which exchange gets the listing, and which banks bring Twitter to market, the process will need to be the best one in years. Twitter's IPO is not only a test of the company's value. It is a chance for all parties involved to show Wall Street what a perfectly managed IPO looks like.
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