Amidst all the hype and hullabaloo of Spotify’s rebirth as a public company this week, a few pressing questions about its content-providing shareholders were quietly answered.
Spotify bypassed the traditional initial public offering route and launched on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday (May 3) through a direct listing, which means its existing stakeholders, which include the music majors and Merlin, the independent digital rights agency, can offer their shares to investors.
Would music companies offload shares for an early payday?
Well, yes, as it turned out. Sony Music Entertainment sold 17.2% of its shareholding for a windfall of at least US$260 million, according to a notice Sony shared with investors.
“Sony Music and the Orchard are committed to sharing with their artists and distributed labels any net gain they may realize from a sale of Sony Music’s equity stake in Spotify,” the company said. “This is consistent with our previously announced policy.” It’s unclear just how that hefty sum will be distributed.
When Spotify went public, Sony owned 5.7% of the Swedish streamer’s outstanding shares (or 10.16 million shares), a bigger chunk than any of its music company rivals. Having offloaded stock, Sony’s ownership in Spotify dips below 5% (it’s estimated at 4.7%) which means Sony is no longer obligated to disclose changes in its Spotify holdings under SEC rules.
It isn’t known whether Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group or Merlin have shed any of their shares, though Swedish telco Telia did cash in by selling its entire minority stake to institutional investors for $272 million.
By the end of the first day of trading, Spotify’s stock price closed at $149 (coming down from a high of $169) for a market value of about $27 billion, dwarfing Pandora Media’s market cap of $1.2 billion, nearly seven years after it went public. Spotify’s was the largest ever direct listing and its journey will be seen as a test case for other others hoping to test the stock market waters without actually selling new shares.
Bloomberg does note, however, just 5.6 million shares changed hands at the opening price, or 5 percent of the total number potentially available to trade.
Don’t read too much into these early, frenetic days. Trading in tech and entertainment stock can be a thrill ride, sure, but investors have been cautioned to look out for bumps in the long road ahead.
Spotify predicts nearly 100 million paid premium subscribers by year’s end (up 30% year on year), but has yet to post a profit since opening for business more than a decade ago.