Asana valued at $4 billion in NYSE debut

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FILE PHOTO: New York Stock Exchange opens during COVID-19

By Joshua Franklin

(Reuters) – Asana Inc <ASAN.N> was valued at more than $4 billion in its New York Stock Exchange debut on Wednesday, after the workplace software maker went public through a direct listing rather than a traditional initial public offering.

Asana’s stock opened at $27 per share and closed at $28.80, up from a reference price of $21 per share set by the NYSE on Tuesday.

Prior to its public debut, Asana shares had traded in the private market at a weighted average price of $25.11 apiece in August.

The listing comes as the company’s software that supports corporate teams’ collaboration and organization is of particular value to customers during the COVD-19 pandemic, according to co-founder and Chief Executive Dustin Moskovitz.

“All these companies are moving to remote work for the first time, getting that clarity has become an ever more important business imperative. We’re well matched to the moment,” Moskovitz said in a telephone interview.

Asana was joined on Wednesday by Palantir Technologies <PLTR.N>, another company backed by Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, which also debuted on the NYSE through a direct listing, rather than a traditional initial public offering.

Existing investors can sell their shares directly to the market in a direct listing and the price at which shares are sold is not influenced by input from underwriting banks, amid criticism that shares in an IPO are often underpriced. Unlike an IPO, companies are not allowed to raise capital.

“In a traditional IPO where the underwriters may be pricing it at a particular price and then you see a 20%, 30% or sometimes even 50% increase in the stock, as the CFO you’re thinking, are you leaving money on the table?” Asana Chief Financial Officer Tim Wan said in an interview.

“In a direct listing you don’t have that phenomenon and you’re not raising money. You don’t feel like you’re leaving money on the table.”

Music-streaming business Spotify Technology SA <SPOT.N> went public in 2018 via a direct listing and communications platform Slack Technologies Inc <WORK.N> followed suit in 2019.

Asana was founded in 2008 by Facebook Inc <FB.O> co-founder Moskovitz and former Google and Facebook engineer Justin Rosenstein.

(Reporting by Madhvi Pokhriyal in Bengaluru and Joshua Franklin in New York; Editing by Maju Samuel and Cynthia Osterman)

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