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Qualtrics scores big in stock debut, raises a record $1.55B — but not without a hitch

Provo software firm had to clarify statements by the CEO of its parent company.

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith, pictured Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020, at Vivint Smart Home Arena. He is a co-founder of Provo-born Qualtrics, which took in $1.55 billion in its initial stock offering.

After an initial hiccup Thursday, Provo’s Qualtrics International blew past Utah’s previous record for a stock debut, amassing an astounding $1.55 billion on its first day as a publicly traded company.

At the market’s close, shares in the customer-experience software vendor’s initial public offering had vaulted to $45.5 dollars a share — nearly 52% above its opening price of $30. (It later dipped slightly in after-hours trading.)

The premiere solidified it as the largest IPO ever to emerge from the Beehive State, more than doubling the take by the previous record holder: Salt Lake City-based nuclear waste processor EnergySolutions, which brought in $690 million in 2007.

Investor enthusiasm also pushed the 19-year-old firm’s overall value above $15 billion — approaching twice the global online survey provider’s purchase price from two years ago.

Ryan Smith, Qualtrics’ co-founder and executive chairman, and his wife, Ashley, made headlines in October when they bought a majority stake in the Utah Jazz.

The company is a leader in experience management, offering subscription-based access to its XM platform, which it says “helps organizations improve customer and employee experiences.”

Trading in Qualtrics shares was temporarily halted early Thursday after the Provo-born firm amended its disclosures to stock regulators in light of legally sensitive comments by the CEO of its parent company. It then launched around 2 p.m. EST — just two hours before closing on the tech-heavy Nasdaq, where Qualtrics now trades under the symbol XM.

In its latest filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Qualtrics warned Thursday that media statements the day before by Christian Klein, head of Qualtrics’ German owner SAP, might be seen as violating securities laws and urged potential investors to disregard them.

“You should not rely on any such media coverage, including the media appearances by Mr. Klein on January 27, 2021, in making a decision about whether to invest in shares of our Class A common stock,” it said in filings early Thursday.

Then, instead of hitting the market with Thursday’s opening bell, XM trading was delayed through the morning and launched just before noon MST. Attempts by The Salt Lake Tribune to reach a company spokesman Thursday for further clarification were not successful.

In Wednesday interviews with CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” and the business publication Fortune, Klein said that since SAP’s $8 billion purchase of Qualtrics in late 2018, “we doubled the revenue” in a response apparently aimed at SAP shareholders.

Qualtrics sought in its filing to clarify the upbeat assertion which came during what was supposed to be an SEC-required “quiet period” required of company officials before such IPOs.

The Utah firm told regulators Klein made his comments in the context of SAP and was drawing from information prepared in compliance with international financial reporting standards — but not U.S reporting rules meant to treat Qualtrics “on a stand-alone basis.”

The company said it had made no payments or other considerations to anyone in connection with the interview’s broadcast.

SAP, which bought Qualtrics in late 2018 just as the Provo firm was preparing for a prior IPO, will remain a majority stakeholder in Qualtrics.

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