Thursday morning featured a strong open on Wall Street, as investors apparently took more time to consider the latest comments from the Federal Reserve and concluded that they could be beneficial for the market as a whole. As of 11 a.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) gained 192 points to 26,696. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) picked up 22 points to 2,948, and the Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX:^IXIC) was higher by 69 points to 8,056.
One of the most closely followed private companies in the tech industry, Slack Technologies (NYSE:WORK), is supposed to begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange today, but it was slow to come out of the gate as market technicians sought to balance buyers and sellers to ensure an orderly debut for the enterprise chat specialist. Meanwhile, Kroger (NYSE:KR) operates in a business that few would think has much potential for being associated with high tech, but its efforts in promoting digital ordering as a new way to shop have borne fruit.
Slack set to make its public debut
Shares of Slack Technologies hadn't yet begun to trade as of 11 a.m. EDT. The NYSE set a reference price of $26 per share late Wednesday in anticipation of this morning's open, but the latest indications from market makers suggested that the stock could first trade at a higher level between $30 and $34 per share.
Slack decided a while back not to do a traditional initial public offering, in which a company engages underwriters to help it sell stock to an initial set of investors. Only after the IPO does the stock begin secondary trading on the stock market, and that can lead to a wide disparity between what the company receives from IPO participants and what ordinary investors end up having to pay for the stock.
Instead, Slack opted for a direct listing, in which the company connects early investors who want to sell all or a portion of their holdings directly with would-be buyers of the stock. Slack itself won't get any proceeds from the listing, as there won't be any new stock offered to investors. Instead, supply and demand will work naturally to determine pricing for Slack shares.
That's not to say that there won't necessarily be fireworks in how Slack's stock trades. Spotify went the direct-listing route in early 2018, and its stock soared from its reference price when it opened before easing back lower. However, with a larger float, it's more likely that trading will happen in an orderly manner, and that will let long-term investors focus more on Slack's potential for growth in its core business.
Kroger stays hungry
Meanwhile, Kroger saw its stock drop 1% after the grocer released its first-quarter financial report. Total revenue fell about 1% from year-ago levels, and adjusted earnings per share were also down slightly over the same period, although Kroger's bottom line came in higher than most investors had expected.
Yet Kroger didn't spend much time reflecting on its past. Instead, CEO Rodney McMullen made it clear that the grocery giant is working hard to keep up with the pace of innovation in the industry, with its Restock Kroger initiative concentrating on a number of key areas. The company's overall goal of "assembling a platform to deliver anything, anytime, anywhere" resonates well with today's shoppers, and Kroger hopes it'll work in the grocery context.
That transformation has already largely taken shape. Kroger now offers pickup in almost 1,700 locations, and it offers more than 2,100 delivery locations. Together, that covers 93% of Kroger's customer base. Moreover, the company is testing its Home Chef concept of meal kits and other convenience-oriented options for customers, and its partnership with Ocado to build robot-powered grocery warehouses should position Kroger to boost its logistical efficiency.
With key competitors emphasizing online groceries, Kroger has dedicated itself to fighting back. Despite somewhat lackluster overall results, the most important thing about Kroger's report today is the extent to which it sees itself remaining an innovative leader in the grocery business for the foreseeable future.