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October 29, 2004

Google's stock rising even further

Google's stock is trading near the $200 mark, and investors have to wonder whether many of those buying the stock near such a high price could be money managers, the same managers who once turned the IPO down and said they would never buy any shares.

And it's not just day traders and mom-and-pop investors accumulating Google shares.

Even though Wall Street veterans know that all hot IPO issues eventually come back to earth, and that Google faces long-term challenges from formidable rivals such as Microsoft and Yahoo, trading data suggests that institutions are indeed among the buyers.

On Thursday, Google was the most active Nasdaq stock, as measured by the dollar value of the shares traded. Trading volume in the stock has exceeded 10 million shares for seven straight days.

"With this kind of volume, it's not just retail demand," said Mark Lehmann, head of securities at the San Francisco investment bank JMP Securities.

That likely means some deep-pocketed investors have had a change of heart.

While some big fund firms - most notably Fidelity, which accumulated 5 million Google shares by early September - were early believers in the stock, many others rejected it for reasons that had nothing to do with its price.

When the Mountain View search firm held investor meetings in New York, San Francisco and other cities ahead of its August offering, many in the big-money crowd expressed indignation that the Web search company had decided not to play by the old IPO rules.

Those rules, which gave managers of mutual funds and hedge funds inside information on and access to hot IPO's, enriched many during the tech boom of the late 1990s.

But Google, as everyone knows, did things differently.

At those meetings, Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page adhered to the letter of federal securities regulations, which restrict executives of companies in IPO registration from sharing any information that is not contained in its public prospectus.

That brought indignation from those managers who already were peeved that Google had estimated its IPO auction would value its shares in a range between $108 and $135 a share. The nerve!

Some made it clear, as they were leaving the Google meeting room at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco, that they wouldn't be interested in Google at any price because the company wouldn't play ball with Wall Street.

Their comments are a reminder that while Google's battle with Wall Street was marked by antagonistic relations with big investment banks, some of the company's most vocal critics were institutional investors.

No fools, they knew how much institutions had to lose if a successful Google offering prompted other companies to use auctions to give retail investors an equal shot at IPO shares.

So far, the auction trend has yet to materialize. But the torrid performance of Google shares since the IPO is evidence that holding onto the old ways can lead to missed opportunities.

Source: CBS MarketWatch

Posted by seomasters at October 29, 2004 01:24 PM | TrackBack
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