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L90 Shares Soar in First Day of Trading Despite Suit

January 29, 2000|DEBORA VRANA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Shares of L90 Inc., the Internet advertising and marketing company, rose nearly 60% in their first day of trading Friday as eager investors dismissed fears of a legal suit pending against the Santa Monica-based firm.

Expectations that the firm will benefit from the expanding Web advertising market won out, pushing the share price up $8.56 to close at $23.56 on Nasdaq, giving it a market value of $464 million.

L90 (ticker symbol: LNTY), whose clients include Dell Computer Corp. and Sprint Corp., is the first major Southern California company to launch an initial public offering in 2000, but analysts say it could be just the start of another huge year for such deals.

So far this year in the U.S., 14 companies have completed IPOs, raising $3.1 billion, compared with 12 deals raising $530.5 million for the same time last year, according to Thomson Financial Securities Data of New Jersey.

"We're off to an early start, and the IPO lineup so far is mostly home-run hitters," said David Menlow, president of IPO Financial Network in New Jersey. "It's almost as if there was no break from the pace with which we closed out 1999."

Apparently, as with last year, the key to success is being Net-related. It's still a market in which a tiny company with no profits like L90 gets a much bigger pop than John Hancock Financial Services, the 137-year-old insurance giant that saw shares from its $1.7-billion IPO climb a modest 4% in their debut Thursday.

L90's sale, led by underwriter SG Cowen Securities Corp., raised $97.5 million. The shares were priced Thursday at $15, above the already-increased range of $12 to $14.

In another sign of the IPO market's strength, L90 chose to go public despite a pending lawsuit from larger Web advertising rival DoubleClick Inc., which claims L90 violated patents. New York-based DoubleClick said L90 should pay license fees for using technology that sends ads to a Web user's browser.

Times wire services were used in compiling this report.

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