Fastclick's Slow IPO

Had Fastclick (Nasdaq: FSTC  ) launched its IPO in January, chances are great it would have had a strong first-day gain. But the IPO market has gone cold lately. According to the IPOMonitor database, the number of IPOs went from 26 in February to only seven in March. For the first quarter, the average return on all IPOs was zero. And, as seen in last week's performance, the Fastclick IPO was what one might call underwhelming.

The IPO was priced at $12, which was the low on its $12 to $14 price range. On its first day of trading, the stock ended at $12. As of yesterday, the stock was trading below its offering price at $11.50 -- that is, Fastclick is officially a "broken IPO."

Traditionally, this is a big negative. A broken IPO tends to tread water as investors look for the next deal. After all, IPO investors are looking for a quick buck.

But if an investor is looking for the long term, then sometimes a broken IPO can be an opportunity. The IPO might've been priced fairly given underlying fundamentals, the result being its price stability. Before jumping into Fastclick, you need to look at the fundamentals in order to discern whether an opportunity does indeed exist.

Fastclick develops technologies that help companies advertise more effectively on the Web. Its key technology is the Optimization Engine, which analyzes Internet users' responses to the ads they serve and refines the advertisers' campaign to be the most effective, a venue that has become increasingly relevant given Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) and Yahoo!'s (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) knack for such methods.

Fastclick has a network of more than 8,000 highly trafficked websites to serve its ads. As of December, there were 114 million unique users and the placement of 6.5 billion ads. Since inception, Fastclick has been a profitable company. Last year, revenues surged from $28.7 million to $58 million. Profits were $5.1 million in 2004.

Also worthy of consideration, several well-heeled competitors already exist, such as ValueClick (Nasdaq: VCLK  ) and Advertising.com, which was purchased by Time Warner (NYSE: TWX  ) for $435 million in cash. (The market cap for Fastclick is $229 million.) Couple that with Yahoo!'s and Google's overtures into the space, and we've yet another dimension of competition. Not to mention that development of technology requires little up-front investment and that online advertisement is becoming an increasingly popular method.

The search space appears to be in the midst of massive consolidation -- recall InterActive's (Nasdaq: IACI  ) recent acquisition of AskJeeves (Nasdaq: ASKJ  ) -- and Fastclick might be a good target, especially if the stock remains weak.

Fool contributor Tom Taulli does not own shares mentioned in this article.


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