Cavallino rampante! Shares of supercar maker Ferrari (NYSE:RACE) surged nearly 6% in the Italian supercar maker's first day of trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday.
What happened: As was widely predicted by many analysts (including this humble Fool), demand for Ferrari shares was very strong from the moment they became available. Ferrari shares were priced at $52 in the company's initial public offering. That was at the high-end of the anticipated $48 to $52 range. There were reports that the issue was "oversubscribed," meaning that there were more willing buyers than there were shares to go around.
From the very first trade, it was clear that Ferrari's shares, like its cars, would be selling at a premium. There was an extra premium for whoever was first in line: Ferrari opened at $60, up 15.4% from its IPO price.
The shares gradually fell back to earth over the course of the trading day, but still managed to close at a handsome first-day premium.
So what: By any measure, it was a successful first offering for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (NYSE:FCAU), which raised $893 million by selling about a ninth of its 90% stake in Ferrari. The remainder of FCA's Ferrari holdings will be distributed to FCA shareholders in a series of transactions over the next several months.
(The other 10% of Ferrari S.p.A., the Ferrari company itself, is owned by Piero Ferrari, son of the company's founder Enzo Ferrari. He has no plans to sell his stake.)
The $52 opening price valued Ferrari at $9.8 billion, or about 22 times Ferrari's pre-tax earnings in 2014. It's a rich valuation for an automaker: Most are valued in the neighborhood of 10 to 12 times earnings.
But there's an argument that Ferrari is more of a luxury-goods company than an automaker in the traditional sense, and thus deserving of a richer valuation. Expect that argument to be made often in the coming months and years, because the investment case for Ferrari has some holes.
Ferrari limits its production to preserve exclusivity. That's a sound business strategy for a luxury-goods maker. But it means that Ferrari may not deliver the growth that investors in public companies typically seek.
Now what: Ferrari shares are likely to be volatile for a while. It's an incredibly powerful brand and a solidly profitable company, and there's a lot of excitement around the offering. And right now, with only 10% of the company available to the public, shares are in relatively tight supply.
That supply will gradually increase during the next few months, as FCA distributes the remainder of its Ferrari holdings to FCA shareholders. It's possible that the share price will fall as supply increases. If you're looking to own a piece of the Prancing Horse, it might be prudent to wait a bit to see what happens.