This story has been updated.
To the cheers of hundreds of employees, Blue Apron executives rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday, marking the trading debut of the meal-kit delivery company.
The newly minted public company got off to a bland start, pricing its initial shares at $10 per share, well below earlier hopes of fetching between $15 to $17. After rising to $11, the stock finished the day exactly where it started, at $10.
The New York company raised $300 million from the initial public offering, a smaller take than the $510 million it originally targeted. Blue Apron sells kits of preselected fresh produce, meats and fish to people who want to cook at home. Launched in 2012, it emerged as an early leader in a crowded field of rivals. In an interview with the cable news channel CNBC, Blue Apron Chief Executive Matt Salzberg argued that, rather than being a threat, an Amazon-Whole Foods combination could be an ally.
If the deal “can help accelerate bringing online dollars into the offline grocery world and accelerate that transition from offline to online, we think that is good for us, and good for others players in online grocery,” he said.
Some analysts were not so optimistic.
“This clearly highlights that new investors are wary of the effect of Amazon’s recent acquisition of Whole Foods on Blue Apron’s ability to acquire and retain subscribers,” said Rohit Kulkarni, managing director of private investment research at SharesPost, which focuses on growth companies.
Blue Apron said it plans to use the money it raised to boost spending on technology and marketing to continue its expansion. The company declined to comment for this story, but in his CNBC interview, Salzberg noted the company had recently begun selling wine and cooking supplies to supplement its core meal-kit business and saw additional “opportunities with different dietary preferences, different price points for customers, different cadences, different cooking occasions.”
Analysts said the $10 initial share price seemed to be a sweet spot for both the company’s ambitions and the investors’ willingness to bet on an idea that has yet to bring profit.
“I assume the underwriters found a price they believe will work to allow the highest quality investors who like the story to build positions,” said Leslie Pfrang, a partner at Class V Group, an IPO advisory firm. “How the stock does will be a function of the company’s execution towards the expectations that are out there.”
While Blue Apron has seen tremendous growth in the past five years (revenues jumped from $77.8 million in 2014 to more than $795 million in 2016), the company still registered a loss of about $54.9 million in 2016, seemingly satisfied to keep spending to fuel its expansion.
“One could argue that the smaller raise for Blue Apron may be good for some of the other players in the space who are growing faster because Blue Apron will have less flexibility to spend irrationally,” Pfrang said.
In his CNBC interview, Salzberg denied comment on the pricing of the shares, now trading under the ticker sign “APRN,” saying that “that is really up to investors to decide.”
“We’re focused on the long-term,” Salzberg said. “The stock price today, whether it’s up, down, left or right, is really just the beginning of this new chapter in our company’s life that we are really excited about.”