The shares of popular but unprofitable Internet radio service Pandora Media Inc. soared more than 50 percent in their market debut today. Its shares opened at $20 and rose as high as $26 in early trading, up from its offering price of $16. At its high, that valued Pandora at $4.2 billion.
That is nearly twice the current value of AOL Inc. but a fraction of such Internet behemoths as Google Inc. or even Yahoo Inc.
Pandora's offering comes amid a fervor for high-profile Internet IPOs that have just begun to trickle in.
Pandora, based in Oakland, Calif., got its start in 2000 as a music recommendation service, then known as Savage Beast Technologies. It changed its name in 2005 when it launched an Internet radio service that lets people stream music over the Web, letting users create custom stations based on songs, genres or artists.
Pandora has 94 million registered users and it makes most of its money from advertising. In the most recent fiscal year, Pandora booked a loss of $1.8 million before paying dividends on preferred stock. Its revenue was $138 million.
Dolby sues RIM
Dolby International, a unit of audio equipment maker Dolby Laboratories Inc., is suing Research In Motion Ltd. for patent infringement in the U.S. and Germany.
Dolby alleges that RIM's Blackberry smartphones and Playbook tablet devices use its patented digital audio compression technology, which enables the playback of high-quality audio files using limited amounts of storage space, without a license.
Dolby, based in San Francisco, filed its lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and in the District Court of Mannheim in Mannheim, Germany.
The company is seeking financial damages and an injunction to halt the sale of RIM's products. Canada's Research In Motion, based in Waterloo, Ontario, had no comment.
Greek crisis turns violent
Greece's beleaguered Socialist government has launched power-sharing talks with the main opposition conservatives, state television reported, as anti-austerity riots ripped through central Athens.
State-run NET television said Prime Minister George Papandreou was in talks with conservative opposition leader Antonis Samaras to form a possible grand coalition government to deal with the country's crippling debt crisis.
Government officials were not immediately available for comment, but several conservative deputies publicly backed the idea — and called for Papandreou to step aside.
The riots broke out and lasted several hours after more than 25,000 people gathered outside Parliament to protest a new package of tax hikes and spending cuts through 2015. At least 20 people were detained, police said.
European outlook iffy
The European Central Bank is warning that the outlook for Europe's financial system remains “extremely challenging” because of the government debt crisis in Greece and other countries.
The top monetary authority for the 17 euro countries says the biggest worry is the link between shaky governments and the stability of banks.
The ECB warns that a restructuring of troubled government finances would have “very dangerous implications” for that country's banks.
That's even though banks are in relatively better shape than they were six months ago.
The central bank has been cautioning that letting Greece pay less than what creditors are owed — called sovereign restructuring — could wipe out the financial cushions of Greek banks that hold government bonds.
Bringing it all back home
President Barack Obama is setting up a government project to keep business and and attract it to the United States. The program will be run out of the Commerce Department but will involve departments and agencies across the government to promote the United States as a hospitable place for investment.
The effort comes as Obama tries to emphasize job creation in the face of 9.1 percent unemployment and sluggish economic growth.
According to his executive order, the cost of the program will be paid out of the Commerce Department's existing budget. A working group made up of senior officials from throughout the executive branch will coordinate promotion activities and address business concerns.
A little good news on Japan’s nuclear crisis
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says early fears that all the water was gone from spent fuel pools at the stricken nuclear complex in Japan were unfounded.
The NRC says new video shows that spent fuel pools at Unit 4 at the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex probably did not go dry, as NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko had insisted in March. Japanese officials had denied Jaczko's claim, which was based on information from NRC staff and other experts who went to Japan after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
Bill Borchardt, the NRC's executive director for operations, said Wednesday that U.S. officials welcomed the video evidence as “good news” and one indication that the meltdown at the Fukushima plant “may not have been as serious as was believed.”
China buying more U.S. debt
China, the biggest buyer of U.S. Treasury debt, boosted its holdings in April, the first increase after five straight declines. The Treasury Department said China increased its holdings by $7.6 billion to $1.15 trillion.
Total foreign holdings of Treasury securities rose 0.2 percent to $4.49 trillion.
Japan, the second largest buyer of U.S. debt, trimmed its holdings slightly by $1 billion to $906.9 billion. There had been concerns that the March 11 earthquake and tsunami would lead Japan to sharply reduce its purchases to use the money for reconstruction.
The government hit its $14.3 billion borrowing limit on May 16. Since then, Treasury officials have been making various bookkeeping maneuvers to clear room to continue normal borrowing operations. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said he will run out of maneuvering room by Aug. 2 if Congress has not passed a higher debt limit by that time.
The Treasury report said that the United Kingdom, the third largest holder of Treasury securities, increased its holdings to $333 billion in April, up from $325.2 billion in March.
Star news services