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Groupon上市大戏:热闹背后的隐忧

Groupon上市大戏:热闹背后的隐忧

Dan Mitchell 2011年11月08日
不出所料,Groupon首次公开募股(IPO)果然热闹非凡,但这并不能消除其商业模式中与生俱来的风险因素。

    科技公司首次公开募股最近比较少见,可一旦出现就是大动作。团购网站Groupon公开募股的规模就是最大的一次(Groupon是否属于“科技公司”尚值得商榷,但人们就是这么认为的,这一点很重要)。当前的经济环境被紧张气氛所笼罩,这也是导致科技股首次公开募股非常少见的原因之一,在这种氛围中,投资者的情绪通常都是紧张兮兮,至少可以说是谨小慎微。

    科技公司首次公开募股可能在一段时间内会呈现出某种欢乐的怀旧情绪,但在散户投资者们加深对抵押贷款衍生品的了解之后,乐观的情况将不会持续。

    迄今为止,Groupon仍在既定轨道内运行。其股票发行价定为20美元,为公司募集到了约7亿美元,公司总价值评估为127亿美元,仅次于谷歌公司(Google)2004年首次公开募股之后的评估价值231亿美元。交易刚开始,Groupon的股价就上涨了40%,达到28美元,几分钟后达到30美元。随后股价开始下探,但仍然比发行价高出很多,大约在28美元左右。

    《大西洋报》(The Atlantic)资深编辑德里克•汤姆森表示,目前促使人们买进Groupon股票有两种可能因素。一是他们“真的认为存在一种商业模式支撑着Groupon这类公司,二是他们认为自己比其他投资者更聪明,能够在首次公开募股之后的数周和数月内比那帮傻瓜更早地将Groupon股份脱手变现。”

    鉴于Groupon公司的历史、商业模式以及类似IPO的近况,后一种动机似乎更靠谱。确实有些人非常看好Groupon,但他们中的多数为Groupon公司员工或者公司投资人。而其他大部分人都关注该公司面临的无穷无尽的风险和警示,包括:Groupon依然亏损;收益增长平平;公司会计实务遭受质疑(并进行了修正);公司很明显违反了“静默期”惯例(公司在首日上市交易前的一段时期内或上市后几周内对外不发布任何信息,保持静默——译者注);首席运营官玛戈•乔治亚迪斯在任职仅五个月后就突然辞职,转投谷歌。

    更重要的是,Groupon公司的前景一片迷茫。有些商业业主已经开始抱怨,网上团购优惠券让他们赔了钱(有点切中要害了),但并没有使团购券买家们成为回头客并以全价购买商品(这应该就是要害所在)。此外,进入团购业务领域的门槛也越来越低,这意味着竞争者蜂拥而入时Groupon必须严重依赖品牌营销。(看看Groupon的市场追随者们)

    该股开盘日大涨的另一个原因是:简单的供需关系。公司发行了3,500万股,仅仅是公司总价值的4.7%。在需求迅速增加的时候,股价当然大幅上涨。

    然而现在的情况又如何呢?彭博社(Bloomberg)选择了最近两年它认为“大热”的25家首次公开募股公司。其中有20家公司的股价已经跌破发行价,而且大多远远低于发行价。另一家互联网公司迪蒙德传媒(Demand Media)的业务也不稳定,初始投资者占有的股份很多,其股价在首次公开募股之后已经暴跌68%。如果说到目前为止,Groupon公司的发展尚在正轨的话,它最好还是根据形势随机应变。

    译者:李玫晓/汪皓

    Tech IPOs are infrequent enough these days that when one happens, it's a big deal. Groupon (GRPN) is turning out to be the biggest of big deals (whether Groupon is a "tech company" is open to question, but it's perceived that way, and that's what counts). The very infrequency of tech IPOs is among the factors drawing capital to them in an otherwise fear-gripped economy where the people deploying capital are generally skittish and -- seemingly at least -- careful.

    Maybe it's just that "tech IPO" carries a certain happy nostalgia for a time before many retail investors knew much about mortgage derivatives.

    So far, Groupon is staying on script. The stock priced at $20, raising about $700 million for the company and valuing it at $12.7 billion. That's second only to Google (GOOG), which was valued at $23.1 billion upon its 2004 IPO. Groupon shares opened 40% higher, at $28, and hit $30 just a few minutes after trading started. They have drifted down from that, but are still well above their open price, at around $28.

    The Atlantic's Derek Thompson says there are two possible factors motivating people buying Groupon today. Either they "really do believe that there is a business model at the bottom of the heap of Groupons, or else they think they're smarter than the rest of the market and can spin off Groupon shares on a bunch of suckers in the weeks and months after the IPO."

    Given Groupon's history and its business model, and the recent history of similar IPOs, the latter motive seems the more likely. There are some true believers in Groupon, but many of them seem to work for either Groupon or its investors. Much of the rest of the world appears focused on the seemingly endless list of red flags and caveats: Groupon still loses money; revenue growth is flat; the company's accounting practices have been questioned (and revamped); the company apparently violated "quiet period" rules; COO Margo Georgiadis abruptly left the company to work for Google after just five months.

    More fundamentally, Groupon's prospects are far from predictable. There have been complaints from business owners that online coupons lose them money (which is sort of the point) but don't bring coupon users back to buy at full price (which is supposed to be the point.) Further, there are few barriers to entry in Groupon's business, which means that it must rely heavily on branding even as competitors pile in. (Meet Groupon's groupies)

    Another reason for the stock's opening-day pop: simple supply and demand. The company issued 35 million shares, or just 4.7% of the total. Add in the buzz-propelled demand and there couldn't help but be a huge price spike.

    But what happens now? Bloomberg picked 25 IPOs over the past two years that it labeled "hot." Of those, 20 have sunk below their opening price - often well below. Demand Media (DMD), another Internet company with a shaky business and lots of initial investor interest, is down 68% since its IPO. If Groupon has followed the script so far, it had better start improvising soon.

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