NEW YORK — Twitter had a solid public stock debut Thursday in the most highly anticipated initial public offering since Facebook's last year.
The stock closed at $44.90 on its first day of trading, giving Twitter a value of more than $31 billion based on its outstanding stock, options and restricted stock that will be available after the IPO. That's 73 percent above its $26 IPO price.
The high price comes despite the fact that the microblogging website has never turned a profit in seven years of existence. Revenue has been growing, but the company is also investing heavily in more data centers and hiring more employees. At the opening bell, the company that reinvented global communication in 140-character bursts was valued at $31 billion — more than Macy's and comparable to the parent company of KFC and Pizza Hut or tractor and tool maker Deere & Co.
Twitter worked hard to temper expectations ahead of the IPO, but all that was swiftly forgotten with the stock's opening surge. The company "now just has to deliver on all this," said Roger Entner of Recon Analytics.
The IPO was carefully orchestrated to avoid the glitches and eventual letdown that surrounded Facebook's first appearance on the Nasdaq 18 months ago. Trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "TWTR," shares opened at $45.10, 73 percent above their initial offering price. In the first few hours, the stock jumped as high as $50.09.
The narrow price range indicated that people felt it was "pretty fairly priced," said JJ Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade. The immediate price spike "clearly shows that demand exceeds the supply of shares," said Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter.
As a newly public company, one of Twitter's biggest challenges will be to generate more revenue outside the United States. More than three-quarters of its 232 million users are outside the country, but only 26 percent of its revenue comes from abroad. The company has said that it plans to hire more sales representatives in countries such as Australia, Brazil and Ireland.