With the New York Stock Exchange symbol RACE, one might expect a new stock to take off like, well, a Ferrari Formula One race car – and that’s precisely what happened as the Italian automaker launched its long-awaited IPO.
Ferrari’s first-day surge was all the more impressive considering its stock initially was priced at $52, at the upper end of the anticipated offering. While RACE shares didn’t quite have the explosive power of a Google IPO, they still managed to end Wednesday trading at $55. And that gives the exclusive sports car company a market value of $10.4 billion.
The strong reception was especially welcome on Wall Street at a time when several other closely-watched IPOs, including Digicel Group Ltd., were either canceled or postponed or delivered weaker-than-expected results.
The news was especially good for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the trans-Atlantic automaker that has long resisted spinning off Ferrari. FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne – who has been filling in as Ferrari CEO, as well – reversed course, in large part, because of the need to fund a massive corporate spending program.
Before decade’s end, FCA plans to spend $54 billion to build up key global brands like Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Jeep. The company also needs to come up with an assortment of electrified powertrains desperately needed to meet increasingly stringent global emissions and fuel economy standards.
(Fiat Chrysler opens new Jeep plant in China. Click Here for the story.)
For now, FCA has spun off just 10% of Ferrari – about equivalent to what Piero Ferrari, son of the sports carmaker’s founder Enzo, holds. The rest is expected to be distributed to Fiat Chrysler shareholders next year. But Fiat’s founding Agnelli family will ultimately come away with about 30% of Ferrari’s new shares and, along with Piero Agnelli, should be able to resist any unwelcome takeover attempt.
Fiat Chrysler, formally registered in The Netherlands, cleared $893.1 million on the offering. Early in the day, RACE shot as high as $60.50 a share, but it still closed in strongly positive territory. It remains to be seen if it will continue to gain strength in the coming weeks. Automotive stocks, on the whole, have not been doing particularly well lately – though General Motors surged $1.94 Wednesday on strong third-quarter earnings.
Even high-flying Tesla has been struggling, especially in the wake of the announcement by influential Consumer Reports magazine, on Tuesday, that it was withdrawing its coveted “Recommended” rating for the Model S battery-car due to worsening reliability problems.
But analysts and investors appear to see Ferrari stock as equally unique to the cars the company produces. And, it seems, Ferrari plans to be producing more of them in the coming years.
FCA CEO Marchionne took on the chief executive role at Ferrari after forcing out long-time boss Luca di Montezemolo last year. Marchionne wanted to boost production from the cap in place of around 7,000 vehicles annually. Montezemolo didn’t.
In the IPO prospectus, Ferrari said it was looking to boost annual sales to around 9,500, and Marchionne has hinted that could go even higher. The challenge, analysts caution, will be maintaining the brand’s exclusivity. But much of the growth is expected to come from emerging markets, such as China, where Ferrari sports cars are still an extreme rarity.
(To see more about Ferrari’s plans to expand production, Click Here.)
One unanswered question is how Ferrari will try to boost sales. Some observers are wondering whether it might launch a slightly down-market line, much as Bentley did with its Continental line, and Rolls-Royce did with its Ghost.
Meanwhile, Ferrari plans to line up new affiliate deals that could see its name and “prancing pony” logo appear on a variety of new luxury goods.
The Italian automaker already has lent its name and logo to Ferrari-branded items like sunglasses, watches and even laptop computers. It also may add new entertainment venues like the one it now operates in the Middle East. Ferrari World Abu Dhabi is the world’s largest indoor theme park.
One area where Ferrari will need to invest heavily is in motor sports. The company dominated the Formula One circuit during the first years of the new Millennium, but it has been able to generate few podium finishes in recent years. Motor sports have been an essential ingredient in the Ferrari formula ever since former racer Enzo Ferrari decided to create his own company. And the maker has been desperately working to regain its F1 magic.
(Click Here to see why Dodge is set to kill off the Viper sports car.)