Quickie: Bentley IPO now at $22/share

Sep 23, 2020 | Hot Topics

I am no expert at IPOs but this seems unusual to me: Bentley’s offering had originally set a price range of $17 to $19 per share, then yesterday that range was upped to $19 to $21 — and then last night, it was again raised, to $22/share. That means the selling shareholders will raise on the order of $272 million and Bentley’s overall valuation is now over $5 billion.

We still don’t know who, exactly, the selling shareholders are. The German newspaper, Handelsblatt, wrote

A [Siemens] spokesman left open the question of whether the Munich-based industrial group has sold part of its shares. In any case, the strategic partnership with Bentley will not change, he stressed. Speculation about a takeover of Bentley Systems by Siemens had been rejected by corporate circles.

[My translation. The newspaper is, of course, in German. “Unternehmenskreisen” is literally corporate circles, but I think we can also use it to mean “people with knowledge who were unwilling to be quoted”.]

There had been massive speculation that Siemens and Bentley could be using the IPO process to establish a price for Bentley, leading to a purchase by Siemens of the 85% or so of shares it doesn’t already own. Handelsblatt seems to think that’s off the table.

Barring any last minute changes, trading in Bentley shares is set to start today on the NASDAQ under the ticker symbol BSY. I’ll be watching the stock trades on Marketwatch to see what happens. The trading day starts at 9:30 AM ET, for what it’s worth. Not sure when Bentley’s shares will appear but I’ll be obsessively refreshing to see what happens.

A couple of people have asked why this matters. I find it fascinating because our little world of engineering and design and operations solutions isn’t nearly as sexy as Zoom, as controversial as Facebook, as self-promoting as Tesla. Yet it makes a significant difference in the lives of every person on the planet, every day. Clean water, affordable housing, communications – -all of that, engineerings and designers do. And Bentley enables its customers to do it better and faster. This IPO rewards shareholders who may be founders of companies Bentley acquired, longtime employees, or others who built the Bentley we know today. That’s cool.

In a practical sense, it also helps establish for the short term what other entrepreneurs might expect if they want to sell their businesses — compare your financials to Bentley’s. Look at its customer metrics, geographic reach, income statements and the other details in the S-1 filings to see how your baby stacks up. Altair has been acquiring like crazy, but not releasing price or other information, so we can’t use it as a baseline. Bentley’s disclosures help establish the value the market places on PLMish companies like it.

OK. Off to fuel up for all of that reflexive refreshing of the Marketwatch page. I hope the Bentley family rings the opening bell at the NASDAQ in Times Square –it was very cool when I got to see Altair’s James Dagg do that a couple of years ago– but I’m not sure what’s possible in this COVID era. If I find a picture I’ll post it.


The title image is of the massive bank of displays inside the NASDAQ headquarters in Times Square, from Wikimedia.