Fusion-io soars in debut as appetite for tech companies rages

BANGALORE Thu Jun 9, 2011 4:41pm EDT

BANGALORE (Reuters) - Shares of Fusion-io Inc, which makes storage memory hardware and software for data centers, soared 34 percent in their market debut, as the rush to snap up technology start-ups showed no signs of waning.

Fusion-io's shares sold for an IPO price of $19 apiece, but Thursday's opening price of $25 a share values the company at about $1.95 billion. The company had originally planned to sell shares in the $16-$18 range.

"This is a technology story that is making sense to people and there is also demand (based on) the fundamentals," said David Menlow, president of IPOFinancial.com.

Other tech companies such as LinkedIn Corp and Russia's Yandex NV have had strong IPO premieres, while Groupon's recent filing has only heightened the anticipation for potential offerings by Facebook, Zynga and Twitter.

Fusion-io shares closed at $22.50 on Thursday, up about 18 percent. About 6.8 million shares exchanged hands on the New York Stock Exchange, on Fusion-io's first day as a public company.

Salt Lake City, Utah-based Fusion-io, which boasts employing Apple Inc's co-founder Steve Wozniak as its chief scientist, makes storage memory hardware and software used by data center operators to speed up data processing.

Analysts also said heavyweight names underwriting Fusion-io's offering may have helped investors feel more comfortable betting on the company.

"Goldman has pretty much been out of the picture for a while and Morgan Stanley has taken the spotlight ... so it may have been Goldman trying to thump their chest that they can also do big opening premium deals," Menlow added.

Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley were lead active joint book-runners for the IPO, while J.P. Morgan and Credit Suisse were passive joint book-runners for the offering.

SSD MEMORY ON FIRE

Founded in 2005, Fusion-io stands to benefit as corporations and data center operators switch to using solid state memory drives, which, although more expensive, are faster and more resilient than traditional hard drives.

"All these new storage companies are filling a void which traditional storage memory makers cannot. These technologies usually start at enterprise (customers), a segment that is growing at a massive pace," said Tom Buiocchi, chief executive of privately held SSD storage memory company Drobo.

The flash SSD memory market is currently dominated by a slew of privately held companies, including Sandforce and Corsair. Violin Memory, founded by former Fusion-io CEO Donald Basile, recently raised additional funds valuing it at $440 million.

Other Fusion-io rivals include Texas Memory Systems, OCZ Technology and STEC Inc.

Its 10 biggest customers, including Facebook, Apple and Hewlett-Packard, accounted for 75 percent of revenue in fiscal 2010. Based on Thursday's opening price, Fusion-io is currently valued at 54 times its 2010 revenue of $36.2 million.

Facebook's contribution to the company's revenue grew to 52 percent in the latest quarter but is expected to "decline significantly" in the current quarter, the company said in a regulatory filing.

Fusion-io's revenue in the first nine months of fiscal 2011 grew almost five times to $125.5 million and its net loss narrowed to $1.2 million from $19.8 million.

Following the IPO, venture capital firms New Enterprise Associates and Lightspeed Venture Partners together own about 44 percent of Fusion-io. Chief Executive David Flynn owns about 8 percent of the company's shares.

(Reporting by Himank Sharma and Brenton Cordeiro in Bangalore; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty, Savio D'Souza and Anil D'Silva)

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