UPDATE 3-Zynga IPO values company as high as $9.04 billion

Fri Dec 2, 2011 11:19am EST

Related Topics

* Company could be valued between $7.7 bln and $9.04 bln

* Could raise $925 million based on price range midpoint

* Zynga toned down valuation amid rocky markets-analyst

By Liana B. Baker and Brenton Cordeiro

Dec 2 (Reuters)- Zynga Inc, which plans to go public in two weeks, on Friday slashed its value by more than 30 percent to $9 billion, hoping to avoid the fate of other recent Internet IPOs that have disappointed after stock market debuts.

The pricing values the maker of Facebook games as high as $9.04 billion, whereas just two weeks ago a filing listed its value, based on a third party assessment, at $14.05 billion.

"Given what's transpired in the markets over the several months and overall macro uncertainly, it seems like Zynga is trying to take a practical and prudent approach to the deal to make it seem more appetizing to investors," said Robert W. Baird & Co analyst Colin Sebastian.

Shares of Internet companies Groupon and Pandora Media , both high profile IPOs, have slumped below their IPO prices. Some feared Zynga would find itself in a similar situation after some previous sky high valuations.

Zynga said in an updated filing on Friday that it plans to sell 100 million new shares, an 11.1 percent stake, at between $8.50 and $10 each. A Zynga spokesman declined to comment the IPO.

At the midpoint price, the Zynga IPO could raise $925 million, which would make it the largest by a U.S. Internet company since Google Inc raised $1.7 billion in 2004.

The updated filing with a price range kicks off the company's road show, in which Chief Executive Mark Pincus and Chief Financial Officer David Wehner will pitch the IPO to investors.

The road show starts in the mid-Atlantic region on Monday, with stops in cities including Chicago, Boston, New York, Denver and San Francisco. Zynga aims to set a final price on Dec. 15 and the stock is scheduled to trade on Dec 16.

Five-year-old Zynga made its name with viral games such as "FarmVille," among the most popular on the Facebook social network. While Zynga's games are free to play, the company makes money from selling virtual items -- such as tractors and weapons -- that players then use in games.

Based on a fully diluted share count of 904 million, which includes existing shares and stock options, the IPO price values Zynga at $7.7 billion to $9.04 billion.

While Zynga's valuation has been cut from earlier estimates, Zynga would still be among the largest publicly traded U.S. game developers after it debuts on Nasdaq under the "ZNGA" ticker.

Video game developer Activision Blizzard Inc currently has the industry's highest market value, at $14.2 billion, followed by Electronic Arts Inc , at $7.7 billion.

Zynga's debut will follow IPOs this year from Groupon Inc and LinkedIn Corp that helped revive a market that had sputtered in recent years. Facebook is gearing up to go public next year.

With more than 260 million monthly active users on Facebook, Zynga has been adept at herding current players to its each new free game it releases. Zynga's unique paying players for the 12 months ended Sept. 30 stood at about 7.7 million.

"We are now entering into the most active launch period in the history of the company. In fact, we now have more people working on new games, than existing games," said Chief Operating Officer John Schappert in an IPO road show video posted online on Friday.

PINCUS POWER

Pincus, a serial entrepreneur before he founded Zynga, will hold a class of shares with 70 times more voting power than the common stock that will be sold in the offering.

Such concentrated voting power in the hands of a CEO is rare, said Lise Buyer, founder of IPO advisory firm The Class V Group, who said that investors will have to "think long and hard" about the unequal voting rights.

A 10-1 voting structure with companies such as LinkedIn is more common, she said.

"Future shareholders should assume Zynga won't listen to them," Buyer said.

Deep-pocketed rivals from Walt Disney Co to Electronic Arts are starting to muscle in on Zynga's turf with Facebook games of their own.

The company said its IPO represented 14.3 percent of 699 million common shares, excluding restricted stock.

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