initial public offerings (IPOs) trading on American exchanges

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The next wave of tech IPOs

After a year of high-profile consumer Internet IPOs—from Groupon Inc., LinkedIn Corp. and Zynga Inc. last year to Yelp Inc. and Facebook Inc. now—a slew of Silicon Valley companies that sell technology mainly to businesses are also getting ready to hit the stock market.

This new crop of IPO-ready companies are solving problems that businesses are willing to spend money on, such as improved security or better insight into customer behavior.

Splunk Inc., a San Francisco company that helps businesses capture and analyze the data they generate, and Infoblox Inc.(BLOX), a Santa Clara, Calif., maker of network-automation technology, in January both filed to go public in IPOs aiming to raise around $125 million each.

Now other enterprise-tech makers are lining up to get out of the gate. According to people familiar with the matter, security-technology maker Palo Alto Networks Inc., online human resources software company Workday Inc. and tech-management software maker ServiceNow Inc. have picked bankers or are in the final stages of choosing and informing bankers for their IPO process. Atlassian Inc., which provides software building blocks to developers, is also aiming to file for an IPO this year, said another person familiar with the matter.

Spokespeople for Atlassian, Splunk (SPLK), Palo Alto Networks (PANW) and Workday declined to comment, while ServiceNow didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

While well-known Silicon Valley consumer Web companies could still go public—such as Twitter Inc.—2012 marks "the revenge of the enterprise tech sector," said Jim Goetz, a board member of Palo Alto Networks and a venture capitalist at Sequoia Capital, which also backed ServiceNow.

Start-ups that target businesses traditionally take longer to turn a profit than consumer Web companies. But working in these companies' favor, bankers say, are predictable revenue streams based on recurring monthly subscription fees for their products.

Splunk is still unprofitable but its revenue rose 79% to $77.8 million for the nine months ended Oct. 31 on the backs of big customers such as Bank of America Corp., Comcast Corp. and Harvard University. Palo Alto Networks, meanwhile, said in August that its run rate exceeded $200 million in bookings and that it had been cash flow positive for five consecutive quarters.

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