When Utah-born Qualtrics International goes public Thursday, the much-anticipated stock sale is expected to make history.
The customer-experience software maker’s initial public offering is priced to be the largest ever from the Beehive State. At the least, the scheduled sale will set a dramatic new watermark for the firm headquartered in Provo and Seattle, as well as for Utah’s growing tech sector.
Documents filed Monday with the Securities and Exchange Commission indicate the firm expects to sell 50.4 million shares on the tech-oriented Nasdaq, priced at between $27 and $29 apiece — with potential to raise $1.46 billion.
If investors buy in — and there’s good reason to think they will — the resulting sum would dwarf Utah’s most successful previous IPO, by Salt Lake City-based nuclear waste processor EnergySolutions in 2007, which drew $690 million.
It would also push Qualtrics’ estimated total valuation to as high as $14.6 billion.
New shares in the 19-year-old company — whose executive chairman, Ryan Smith, bought a majority stake in the Utah Jazz last fall — were to begin trading Thursday under the symbol XM.
“It’s a win for Utah. It’s a win for Utah County,” said Jeff Burningham, founding partner and chairman of Peak Capital Partners, an investment firm based in Provo. “Certainly it’s a win for entrepreneurs in the state, for the community and for the Smith family.”
Burningham, a former candidate for Utah governor, and others predicted Wednesday that the sale would also lift the profiles and investment prospects for the rest of Utah’s more than 6,500 technology firms.
The enclave of Silicon Slopes tech firms clustered around the Interstate 15 corridor linking Salt Lake and Utah counties is not only a rising force in Utah’s economy but has also gained in world reputation in recent years, partly due to Qualtrics’ heightened visibility.
“Software is eating the world and software as a service is a hot space and something that Utah excels in,” Burningham said. “This won’t be the last IPO out of Utah.”
The online customer-survey provider has revised those estimates upward twice in SEC filings in recent months as its revenues and outlook continue to improve.
Founded by Smith in 2002 along with his father, Scott, and brother, Jared, Qualtrics took a similar run at going public in late 2018. But on the eve of that public sale, SAP, an immense enterprise-software conglomerate based in Germany, stepped in and bought the firm outright for a stunning $8 billion in what was the state’s largest acquisition to date.
A change in top leadership at SAP a year later, with the departure of CEO Bill McDermott, brought a shift in strategy. Under its new CEO, Christian Klein, SAP announced in July it would spin off Qualtrics in an IPO, while retaining a majority share.
Ryan Smith holds 6 million shares — he bought them late last year — in the company. He and his wife, Ashley, announced in October they would buy a majority stake in the Jazz, in a deal reportedly worth $1.66 billion.
Qualtrics reports in its IPO filings to have “pioneered” software for experience management, and that its XM platform lets subscribers “turn their customers into fanatics, employees into ambassadors, products into obsessions, and brands into religions.”
The firm told stock regulators it had more than 12,000 customer-subscribers “of all sizes” in over 100 countries as of September, “including 85% of the Fortune 100.”
According to its filings, a portion of IPO cash raised would go toward covering $1.76 billion in debts to an SAP subsidiary, with the rest providing working capital “to finance our growth, develop new businesses, products, services or technologies, and fund capital expenditures.”
Appetites for new tech stocks in Qualtrics’ niche appear to be high right now, after offerings by software firms such as Palantir Technologies and Snowflake in late fall did well and their initial prices have since outpaced expectations.
Demand for companies offering cloud-based computing services was strong and building before the coronavirus pandemic and has only intensified as more businesses invest heavily in new tools for remote working and customer care.
Combined with that market enthusiasm, Qualtrics brings a solid financial track record to the picture, making it what one analyst called “an outlier” among tech companies.
According to filings, its revenues grew by 47% — from December 2018 to December 2019 — to $591.2 million. Initial estimates for the past three months 2020, meanwhile, put revenues in the range of between $211.5 million and $214.5 million.
Klein, SAP’s CEO, said Wednesday in a TV interview that the Qualtrics IPO is “massively oversubscribed” — meaning, optimistically, demand for the shares exceeds the supply, with potential to push prices upward.
The CEO also called SAP’s purchase of Qualtrics “a massive success” and said the stock offering would allow the Provo firm to reach new customers worldwide.
Klein told an interviewer with CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” that by retaining its stake in the company, SAP would also “benefit fully from the success of Qualtrics after the IPO.”