Snap values itself at up to $22B ahead of IPO

Last Updated Feb 16, 2017 1:17 PM EST

NEW YORK - Snap Inc. is listing the company’s valuation at up to $22 billion as it prepares for the tech industry’s biggest initial public offering in years.

The parent company of SnapChat said in a regulatory filing Thursday that the IPO is likely to be priced between $14 and $16 per share. Had the IPO price matched the $30.72 per-share price obtained in its last round of financing, Snap would have a market value of about $30 billion, based on the quantity of outstanding stock listed in its IPO documents.

Snap’s highly anticipated IPO would be the largest since China’s Alibaba Group went public in 2014. But Snap, based in Los Angeles, draws comparisons to social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Facebook (FB) raised $16 billion when it went public in 2012, while Twitter (TWTR) raised $1.8 billion in its IPO the following year. 

Snap anticipates its net proceeds will be $2.1 billion, or about $2.3 billion, if underwriters buy all the shares they are entitled to. These amounts are based on the IPO being priced at $15 per share. The stock is expected to trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the “SNAP” ticker.  

SnapChat, whose technology allows people to send photos and video that eventually disappear, has grown quickly. The company said it has 158 million daily active users as of the end of 2016, up 48 percent from a year ago. That has helped fuel explosive financial growth, with Snap’s revenue soaring to $404.5 million in 2016, up nearly seven-fold from $58.7 million the previous year. Most of that revenue comes from advertising. 

The app has also adapted nimbly over to users’ whims and demands, just as Facebook has. This, as both companies have discovered, is key to outlasting social media fads. Snapchat is no longer just about disappearing messages.

For example, Snap has added a “Discover” section where a diverse group of publishers - including People, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, Vice and Food Network - post video-heavy stories aimed mostly at millennials.

Another feature, “Stories,” lets people create a narrative from messages, videos and photos from the past 24 hours. It’s so popular that Facebook’s Instagram now has a version of it, too. Snapchat’s “Lenses” lets people add animated overlays to photos and videos.

Like other Internet companies, however, Snap will have to prove that it can turn its large and growing user base into profits. Over the last two year the company has lost nearly $900 million. 

The social network was created by Evan Spiegel in 2012. Spiegel dropped out of Stanford University just three classes shy of graduation, deciding itself to focus on an app that let people send photos, videos and messages that would disappear a few seconds after viewing.

Spiegel and co-founder Robert Murphy will have controlling power over all matters at Snap through a special class of stock that gives them 10 votes for every share they own. The Class A stock being sold in the IPO has no voting power, while another class has one vote per share.