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Here we go again: Yet another new-media darling is gearing up for an IPO.
We're talking about online gaming guru Zynga, which filed its S-1 prospectus last Friday. The maker of popular games such as Mafia Wars and Farmville wants to raise about $1 billion on the open market, though The New York Times says that the final offering could end up about twice that size.
In any case, Zynga plans to keep most of its shares close to the vest, selling only about 10% of available shares. CEO Mark Pincus will essentially run the show by virtue of his multiple-vote Class C shares, particularly when Zynga's underwriters unload their privileged Class B shares in the form of regular, single-vote Class A shares on the open market. Buying Zynga stock with dreams of influencing the company's direction is probably a fruitless exercise, even for deep-pocketed hedge funds.
No, this stock is all about the money. Not that Zynga is in desperate need of any, as it already generates positive cash flows and sits on a billion-dollar bank account. But Zynga might as well get some market-based capital while the getting is good.
And the getting is indeed good. The Zynga IPO is seen as a precursor to a long-awaited Facebook blockbuster of a public offering and fits neatly in a pantheon of upcoming or recent offerings. LinkedIn (Nasdaq: LNKD ) and Pandora Media (NYSE: P ) recently debuted to raucous speculation, huge drops, and then strong recovery climbs. Chinese social network Renren (Nasdaq: RENN ) has followed a similar pattern, except with a longer decline not entirely repaired by more recent jumps. Groupon and LivingSocial are also setting up to milk investors for some much-needed cash.
If there ever was a time to capitalize on a red-hot Internet market, it would be right now. The whole boom brings echoes of the online boom-and-bust cycle of 10 years ago, and rightly so; I don't see how LinkedIn and Groupon expect to last unless they find new ways to monetize their traffic.
Zynga is a different story, being solidly profitable and simply dipping into the market to collect some bonus cash. If the stock reaches a $20 billion market value, that's about the same as the caps of traditional gaming giants Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS ) and Activision Blizzard (Nasdaq: ATVI ) -- combined.
Frothy indeed, but perhaps worth it in the long run. Social gaming is the new little black dress, perfect for any occasion.
Would a $20 billion Zynga fit into your own portfolio, dear Fool? Or is it just another precursor of a bubble about to pop? Personally, I think Zynga will be one of the survivors from this era. Feel free to discuss the matter in the comments below.