initial public offerings (IPOs) trading on American exchanges

Friday, May 27, 2011

Zillow with a Z will break NYSE grip on one-letter

Zillow Inc. wants to end the New York Stock Exchange’s monopoly on companies trading under a single letter. Zillow, a real-estate website that filed last month to raise as much as $51.8 million by going public, disclosed this week that it applied for a Nasdaq Stock Market listing under the ticker Z.

Assuming the application is approved, Zillow would be the first Nasdaq stock with a one-letter symbol. “They’re doing it to attract attention, obviously,” said Bob Stovall, a managing director and global strategist at Wood Asset Management Inc. who has worked on Wall Street since 1953. “I wouldn’t even notice it or look it up,” he said, if Zillow used the traditional four letters for a symbol.

 Nasdaq-listed companies have been able to trade under a single letter since July 2007, when the Securities and Exchange Commission changed the regulations that governed ticker symbols. Before then, stocks could only have one to three letters on the NYSE or the former American Stock Exchange, now NYSE Amex. Another company preparing for an initial public offering, Pandora Media Inc., plans to list its shares on the NYSE under the letter P. The Internet-music service would become the first company to use that ticker since September 2002, when Phillips Petroleum Co. combined with Conoco Inc. to form ConocoPhillips.

Only Five Left
The Z ticker has been available since March 2003, when Foot Locker Inc. adopted FL as its symbol. Z had previously been used by Foot Locker and three predecessor companies -- Venator Group Inc., Woolworth Corp. and F.W. Woolworth Co. -- since 1925. “We couldn’t be more excited” about Zillow’s plan to adopt the letter, said Robert H. McCooey Jr., senior vice president of new listings and capital markets at Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. in New York.

Using Z “will allow them to brand themselves well.” A Zillow spokeswoman, Charlynn Duecy, declined to comment on the decision. The Seattle-based company provides property- value estimates and displays real-estate listings on its site. Rich Adamonis, an NYSE Euronext spokesman, declined to comment as well. Zillow has yet to determine the price or number of shares for its IPO. Neither has Pandora, based in Oakland, California, which plans to go public with a $100 million stock sale. After the two companies complete their IPOs, only five letters will be available for ticker symbols: I, J, Q, U and W. I has been available since First Interstate Bancorp was bought by Wells Fargo & Co. in 1996. J, U and W have gone unused since 2002. Q opened up last month after CenturyLink Inc. completed a takeover of Qwest Communications International Inc., the only company ever to use that letter for its ticker.

Following Hyatt
The most recent company to adopt a single-letter symbol was Hyatt Hotels Corp., which began trading under the ticker H after its IPO in November 2009. Chicago-based Hyatt succeeded Realogy Corp., which was taken private by Apollo Management LP in an April 2007 buyout. NYSE companies have been able to select tickers with four letters since the SEC’s rules changed. LinkedIn Corp., the first social-media company to go public in the U.S., took advantage of this provision. Shares of the Mountain View, California-based company started trading under the symbol LNKD last week.

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