SAN FRANCISCO - There was an unmistakable echo of the dot-com boom Thursday on Wall Street.
LinkedIn, a trailblazer in the online networking craze, went public with a roaring stock offering. Within minutes, shares were trading at twice the value set by the company.
By the closing bell, the company had a market value of $9 billion, the highest for any Internet company since Google had its initial public offering seven years ago.
The stock, issued at $45, went as high as $122.70 just before noon and closed at $94.25 on a trading volume of 30 million shares. All this for a company that skeptics say amounts to an online Rolodex, a place on the Internet for professionals to post resumes and connect with one another and potential employers. Two-thirds of LinkedIn's revenue comes from the fees it charges to help companies find and hire workers.
"Can we stop asking if we are in a bubble now?" venture capitalist Mitchell Kertzman said after hearing that LinkedIn stock was trading above $100. "We are clearly in a valuation bubble."
If the stock market is thirsty for more businesses that connect people on the Internet, there's a backlog of privately held companies that might one day satisfy it.
The short list includes Twitter, the 140-characters-or-fewer messaging service; Zynga, which makes online games like FarmVille; Groupon, the coupon site; and, of course, Facebook, the social network with more than 500 million users.
"If people are this excited about a professional networking service like LinkedIn, you can imagine what kind of frenzy there is going to be when Facebook goes public," said eMarketer analyst Debra Aho Williamson.
The 109 percent first-day gain for LinkedIn, based in Mountain View, Calif., nearly mirrored Netscape's first day when it went public on Aug. 9, 1995. Netscape rose that day from $28 to a close of $58.25, for a 108 percent gain.
In a key distinction from the dot-com days, LinkedIn also makes money - $3.4 million last year on revenue of $243 million. Its revenue more than doubled during the first three months of this year, putting it on pace to bring in about $500 million in 2011 from advertising and fees.
Doozy of a debut
Some facts about LinkedIn's historic first day of trading on the New York Stock Exchange:
Opening price: $45
Highest trade: $122.70
Closing price: $94.25
Shares traded: 30 million
Closing market value: $9 billion