Private Market Valuations Exceed IPO Valuations: Is This a Bubble?? blog update inspired by 2 Jan WSJ column by business news journalist Liam Denning

For broker-dealers, investment bankers, and those following the investment strategies of private equity and venture capital firms, this is one of the better plain-speak summaries profiling the current climate of investing in private companies. The recent outsized valuations during 2014 have caused greybeard investors to scratch their heads…as the outsized pre-IPO valuations are counter-intuitive to traditional investment analysis of private companies, particularly given the assortment of “lower-than-last-private round” post IPO valuations that these same companies are being given in the public marketplace.

For private companies that wish to network with deep-pocketed angel and/or institutional investors, provides an investor forum that connects start-up entrepreneurs with those who can see the forest through the trees.

Below please find excerpts of Liam Denning’s reporting..

Buying a stock, with all its attendant filings, analyst coverage and forecasts, still can be a gamble. So imagine getting excited about one isolated price signal on a private company with all the disclosure of the Air Force’s Area 51.

Yet that is what is setting pulses racing as 2015 dawns. Xiaomi, a closely held Chinese smartphone maker, recently raised $1.1 billion at an implied valuation of more than $46 billion. That puts it ahead of Uber Technologies, the unlisted ride-booking application developer that got new funding in December valuing it at $41 billion. Both numbers also are higher than the market capitalizations of roughly three-quarters of the S&P 500’s members.

In theory, such startup valuations matter little to anyone but a relative handful of founders, employees and venture capitalists. The average investor doesn’t get a seat at the table or more than an occasional glimpse of what even is on the table.

In practice, news of such amazing, and seemingly unobtainable, investments stoke bullish sentiment, leaving individual investors potentially vulnerable.
Venture capitalists and other insiders usually do extensive due diligence before committing to the likes of Uber. But their basis for valuation differs from the approach of mainstream investors buying stocks, with venture funds also considering exit timelines, the cash needs of a startup to keep expanding and maintaining incentives for management and owners as equity stakes get parceled out. They also can, of course, just get things wrong.

Ordinary investors also must consider the wider context. In a world thirsting for yield amid ultralow interest rates, money has sought riskier corners of the market. Almost $24 billion of new commitments flowed to U.S. venture funds in the first nine months of 2014, according to the latest data from Thomson Reuters and the National Venture Capital Association. That is more than in each of the preceding five years in their entirety and sets up 2014 to have been the biggest year for new venture money since before the financial crisis.

This raises the risk of dollars being deployed into questionable businesses, which then eventually find their way into the wider market via initial public offerings, which are priced off the back of those high startup valuations.

For the entire WSJ story, please click here.

BrokerDealer-Backed Consortium That Seeks to Boot Bloomberg Chat Adds to IT Arsenal via Sweet Sounding Acquisition by Supplanter Symphony Communications blog update courtesy of prior reporting here and extract from Dec 1 WSJ story by Justin Baer.

chat serviceAn instant-messaging software company that has drawn investments from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and other big banks signed a deal to buy a chat business from a potential rival.

Symphony Communication Services LLC acquired an arm of Markit Ltd., a financial-data firm that went public earlier this year, the companies said.

The purchase, Symphony’s first since a group of 14 banks and money managers helped start it in October, underlines how Wall Street has quickly coalesced around the Silicon Valley startup as a solution to one of the industry’s most pressing technology challenges: finding a way for employees to communicate with one another, instantly and securely.

It also represents an exit for Markit, which a year ago had launched its own messaging initiative for bankers and traders. The sale isn’t expected to have a material effect on Markit’s results. Fewer than 20 Markit employees are relocating to Symphony as part of the sale of the unit, known as Collaboration Services, a person familiar with the deal said. Terms aren’t expected to be disclosed when the deal is formally announced Tuesday.

David Gurle, Symphony’s chief executive, said in an interview that the company had considered building its own directory before reaching out to Markit in recent weeks to discuss a potential deal. In buying Markit’s business, Mr. Gurle said Symphony probably saved 18 months of development time. “They had a capability we would have ordinarily had to build ourselves,” Mr. Gurle said.

The transaction includes the software that powers Markit’s directory service, which functions as a centralized “phone book” for financial firms that can be customized to meet compliance rules.

Symphony’s emergence may help loosen Bloomberg LP’s grip on the securities industry. The financial-data company’s chat services remain ubiquitous on trading floors. But the price of a Bloomberg terminal, about $20,000 a year, has grated on some finance executives.

If Symphony’s platform spreads quickly through Wall Street, bank executives have said, it could pressure Bloomberg to relent. A Bloomberg spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Bloomberg’s news service competes with Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal.

On Monday, Mr. Gurle said the messaging platform is still on track to launch in July.

Led by Goldman, a group of financial firms invested $66 million in Symphony. The group, in turn, acquired Perzo Inc., a Palo Alto, Calif., company founded in 2012 by Mr. Gurle. Goldman, which led the investment among the financial firms, contributed its own internal messaging developments to the venture.

Founded more than a decade ago, Markit had drawn investments from financial firms such as J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp. , Deutsche Bank AG and Goldman. All four of those banks were among the firms that have backed Symphony.

Markit sought to allow financial firms’ in-house messaging platforms to communicate with one another, he said. Symphony and its backers are betting that financial-services firms need a better system than they could develop on their own.

To read the complete coverage, please visit the WSJ via this link.

Hedge-Fund steps out of the Game due to HFT post courtesy of


A hedge-fund manager says an unusual culprit contributed to his firm’s demise: high-frequency traders.

Rinehart Capital Partners LLC, which had been backed by hedge-fund veteran Lee Ainslie and specialized in emerging-markets stock-picking, is closing, according to a letter viewed by The Wall Street Journal.

In the letter, Rinehart founder Andrew Cunagin aligned himself with those who have been critical of the rise of fast-moving traders. Continue reading

BrokerDealers To Trade For Free in IEX Stock Exchange Proposal: The Death of Dark Pools?

As reported by Bradley Hope in today’s WSJ, upstart equities trading venue IEX, the “dark-pool buster” profiled in the Michael Lewis book “Flash Boys,” announced today a new market structure scheme that would provide commission-free execution for orders submitted by brokerdealers.

According to the proposal, which is “expected to be submitted imminently” to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in connection with IEX’s plan to move from its current status as an ECN (electronic communications network) and towards becoming a full-blown stock exchange, broker-dealer orders would receive priority in the IEX order book, meaning those orders would jump to the top of the order book if the price to buy or sell a stock was at least equal to the prevailing orders entered by non broker-dealers aka buy-side investors that include high-frequency trading firms, mutual fund firms and retail investors. In addition to brokerdealer orders being provided priority over other same-priced orders sent to the platform by non BD’s, broker-dealers would be able to execute commission-free.

In a move that is purposefully intended to disrupt the current market structure status quo and challenge the viability of loosely-regulated and so-called “dark pools,” in which pricing transparency is purposefully hidden so as to mitigate gaming of orders submitted by large institutions, IEX is embracing an approach that has become widely-embraced in Canada’s equity marketplace, whose primary equities trading is administered by TMX Group, that country’s largest stock-exchange provider. Noted TMX Group CEO Thomas Kloet, “The virtue of having more bids and asks consolidated in a few order books, rather than scattered across dozens of venues [such as what takes place in US markets) makes markets more transparent and provides for greater price efficiency.”

The IEX proposal comes close on the heels of recent events in which dark-pool operators have been accused by regulators and law enforcement agencies of various charges, including accusations filed against Barclays PLC by New York State Attorney General which alleges Barclay’s misleads its clients about the way its dark pool favors high-tech “high frequency traders.” Barclay’s system “Barclays LX” was the industry’s largest dark pool used by a broad universe of investors and competing banks, until those charges were filed last month. Since that time, Barclay’s has supposedly experienced a large exodus of clients using their platform, presumably because of concerns they too will be on the receiving end of New York AG subpoenas.




Wall St.Journal Reports “Small Stocks Roaring..Pink Sheets Percolating, Investor Demand Strong..” is providing below news extract courtesy of WSJ and reporter Tomi Kilgore

wsj logoInvestors are piling into the shares of small, risky companies at the fastest clip on record, in search of investments that promise a chance of outsize returns.

The investors are buying up so-called penny stocks—shares of mostly tiny companies that aren’t listed on major U.S. exchanges—at a pace that far eclipses the tech boom of the late 1990s. Those include firms that focus on areas from medical marijuana and biotechnology to fuel-cell development and precious-metals mining—industries that are perceived by some investors as carrying strong growth potential.

Average monthly trading volume at OTC Markets Group Inc., OTCM 0.00% which handles trading in shares that aren’t listed on the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq Stock Market, NDAQ +0.25% has risen 40% this year in dollar terms from a year ago, to a record $23.5 billion.

roaring bckThe renewed interest in a market that used to be known as the pink sheets—because of the colored pieces of paper once used to record prices for unlisted stocks—shows investors are ramping up risk in a bid to boost returns as U.S. stock indexes are hovering near highs and stock valuations have risen above historical norms.

For the complete story from the Wall Street Journal, please click here