October 12, 2010
ROSETTA STONE: PRICING THE 2009 IPO
We are changing the way the world learns languages. —Tom Adams
It was mid-April 2009. Tom Adams, president and CEO of Rosetta Stone, Inc. (Rosetta Stone), the language learning software company, reached for his iPhone to contact Phil Clough of private equity fund ABS Capital. Adams and Clough had been discussing plans to take Rosetta Stone public for some time. The wait was finally over. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the market for initial public offerings (IPOs) evaporated. By early spring the market was showing its first encouraging signs. Just a week prior, Chinese online videogame developer Changyou.com had listed on the NASDAQ at a price to EBITDA of
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Heightened investor risk aversion had expanded the risk premium for all securities. The general market risk premium was currently estimated at 6.5% or 8.5%, respectively, depending on whether long-term or short-term government yields were used in estimating the risk-free rate. In February and March of 2009, there had been some evidence of improvement in financial and economic conditions. Wholesale inventories were in decline. New-home sales were beginning to rise. The equity market had experienced a rally of over 20% in recent weeks. Yet many money managers and analysts worried that such economic green shoots were only a temporary rally in a longer-running bear market. There was strong concern that the magnitude of government spending would spur inflation in the U.S. dollar. GDP growth was still negative, corporate bankruptcy rates and unemployment were at historic highs, and many believed the economic void was just too big for a quick recovery to be feasible. A Wall Street Journal survey of U.S. economists suggested that the economy was expected to generate positive growth in the last half of 2009.1 In contrast, a survey of U.S. corporate executives stated that less than a third of respondents expected to see an economic upturn in 2009.2 The debate regarding the economic future of the world economy raged on.
Rosetta Stone In the 1980s, Allen Stoltzfus, an economics professor, real estate agent, and history buff, was frustrated with his slow