After delaying its initial public offering and twice slashing the price, agricultural biotech firm Ceres Inc. decided the soil was finally fertile enough for it to go public last week.
Shares of the Thousand Oaks company opened for trading on the Nasdaq on Feb. 22 at $14.50, up from an initial pricing of $13, and rose to $14.85 by the end of the second day of trading.
Still, despite the gains, Ceres raised far less money than it expected just a few weeks earlier. The company, which develops seeds for ethanol production, originally planned an IPO for Feb. 9 and proposed selling shares between $21 and $23.
“They had no takers at that price range,” said John Fitzgibbon, founder of IPOScoop.com in New York. “It finally looked like 13 was the magic number, which is a long way down from 23. It turned out to be a bargain at that level.”
It’s not the only IPO this month to be forced by weak demand to cut its price. Of 14 IPOs tracked by Fitzgibbon’s company this month, a dozen had to slash prices. Buffalo, N.Y., telecom services provider Synacor Inc., for example, opened on the Nasdaq on Feb. 10 with an initial pricing of $5, down from an original range of $10 to $12. Mountain View biopharmaceutical firm ChemoCentryx Inc.’s initial public offering price of $10 was down from an expected range of $14 to $16.
Ceres lowered its price range to $16 to $17 on the eve of its original IPO date, then delayed the IPO and further lowered its price to $13. The company ended up raising about $65 million, compared with the nearly $98 million it originally expected to net.
“The buyers are on strike,” Fitzgibbon said.
However, there was some good news for Ceres last week. Its offering coincided with reports that the Department of Agriculture intends to cut in half the time it takes to approve genetically modified crops. That would be a boost for the company, which sells genetically modified seeds for crops that can be turned into ethanol, and for the industry as a whole.
“It’s pretty significant,” said Jeff Windau, an analyst at Edward Jones & Co. in St. Louis who tracks other seed companies such as St. Louis’ Monsanto Co., which is a venture backer of Ceres, and DuPont Co. in Wilmington, Del. “This market is driven by technology development. If you can get a product out a year earlier, you generate that revenue sooner and move on to the next technology.”
A Ceres spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.
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