Bentley shares started trading under the BSY symbol at around 11:15 on Wednesday. Someone told me that the bookmaker, the brokerage firm that handles trading of the shares, had to determine the opening price, which I thought would be the price Bentley set last night, $22. Nope — turns out it was $28, and the price went up from there, as you can see in this screen capture from Marketwatch at 4:04 PM on September 23, 2020:
As you can see, the price wobbled a bit but eventually closed at $33.49, up a whopping 52% on the day — and on a day when technology shares, in general, went up 2.6% while the Nasdaq overall fell 3%. Not a bad day for Bentley, at all.
By the way, I was wrong when I said we didn’t know who wanted to sell shares in this IPO. In the latest version of the S-1, on numbered page 188 is a chart that shows the number of shares owned before and after the sale — by subtraction then, we can figure it out. Many people will be selling — but not Greg, Keith, Barry or Raymond Bentley, who all keep their shares. Not Siemens, which maintains its 14%ish stake. The sellers are longtime and recently retired employees, a charitable giving fund, and clumps of employees in aggregate — in other words, as we expected, it’s a liquidity event for some of the people that made Bentley Systems, Bentley Systems.
What did we learn today? That IPOs are unpredictable, even with all the prep in the world. Some shares go absolutely crazy after they start trading, like Snowflake last week: Shares started the day at $120 and closed at $253.93, more than double their IPO price of $120 — and that was triple what the company initially thought it could get just a week earlier. Other shares go in the opposite direction, as the market makers can’t find buyers for the shares they’ve guaranteed. Basic economics: desirable things that are scarce command higher prices than stuff no one wants, or that there’s too much of. So much is out of the offeror’s control — had there been a dire political, social, or pandemic event, Snowflake and Bentley might have seen very different results.
Oh, and Snowflake also took time to get going. It started trading right around noon on its first day — apparently, it takes that long to match up buyers and orders and begin trading. I thought this was all done by computer nowadays, especially since the NASDAQ doesn’t have a trading floor. It’s charming to think of a guy in an old-fashioned eyeshade, still making all this happen.