The Private Market Is Hot Hot Hot

By Ryan Kim

January 23, 2012

Business is up at SecondMarket, SharesPost, and other private trading services as investors rush to get in on startups before they go public.

As such technology stars as Facebook, Zynga, and Groupon hold off on IPOs, their delays have created even more business for private stock markets, such as SecondMarket. The trading service, which connects private shareholders with buyers, said transactions in the fourth quarter hit $157.8 million, more the double the $75 million recorded in the third quarter.

The increase in the dollar total of transactions reflects both a jump in participants, sellers as well as buyers, and an increase in the prices of shares. SecondMarket doesn’t talk about pricing, but the number of participants more than doubled in the fourth quarter, to 35,000, from a little more than 15,000 in the third quarter.

Rising prices have increased the total implied value of the companies. For example, a private auction of Facebook shares on SecondMarket this month reportedly made the company worth some $70 billion, with prices hitting $28.26 per share, up from $22.75 in a previous auction last month. Private shares of LinkedIn have been selling at $30 each on SharesPost, another secondary exchange, giving the company a valuation of $2.9 billion. According to Nyppex, a secondary private equity adviser, the total value, based on sales in private trading markets, of Facebook, Groupon, Twitter, and other startups rose 54 percent from June to December last year. That helps explain some of the interest in the market: Share prices are rising faster than either traditional venture capital returns or the Standard & Poor’s 500 index (MHP). The exploding valuations have, as my colleague Mathew pointed out, a whiff of a bubble about them, but it’s confined largely to private markets for now.

Rising Regulator Interest, Too

Since its founding in April 2009, SecondMarket has overseen more than a half-billion dollars in private transactions. The strong growth of SecondMarket and SharesPost underscores investors’ interest in private shares, especially in companies that aren’t particularly eager to go public. Also, the government is taking a look at these markets. The Securities and Exchange Commission is reportedly seeking information on private transactions of Facebook, Twitter, Zynga, and LinkedIn shares.

SecondMarket said that in the fourth quarter, Facebook accounted for 39 percent of transactions. Meanwhile, LinkedIn represented 7 percent of transactions, followed by Etsy, with 5 percent, and Chegg and Epocrates at 2.5 percent. In the past, shares have been sold chiefly by former employees, but SecondMarket said that in December, current employees became the largest group of sellers. Among buyers, venture capital funds accounted for more than 40 percent of completed trades, but hedge funds, asset managers, and secondary direct funds have emerged as other important buyers of private shares.

Ryan Kim Ryan has covered personal technology and wireless for the San Francisco Chronicle and now writes for GigaOM.

About Telecorp Inc. Telecorp is a growing provider of communication solutions to many companies and industries including, automotive, real estate, financial, health, charities, and many more. Telecorp offers creative software solutions for communicating with our client’s customers at levels never seen before. A total solution that is not only affordable, but indispensable for any business, no matter the size. Telecorp’s modules allow for the best marketing tools, first rate sales acquisition systems and customer communication processes that drive greater profitability from every interaction and allow every user to reduce costs and increase productivity.

The company’s integrated suite of customized solutions includes customer acquisition, customer care, automated voice services, emergency communications, video/voice conferencing, data management, webinars, customer and hardware support tools, e-mail, fax and text broadcast messaging, direct to voice mail messaging, customized voice messaging, text to speech systems, predictive and progressive dialing, contact management solutions and more. Founded in 2006 in Cheyenne, Wyoming USA. Telecorp has a team of employees based in North America, Central America, Australia and Europe.

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