Bankrate Bust is a Sign that 2011 IPO Scene May Be Flaming Out

Bankrate (NYSE:RATE) stock made its big debut on Wall Street today, with the corporate parent of trading on the New York Stock Exchage under the ticker RATE. Bankrate raising about $187.5 million in its 2011 IPO. The stock offering was priced at $15 a share.

But like so many other 2011 IPO investments, that initial price for Bankrate  didn’t hold – and in early trading, RATE stock had slumped as low as $14.10 a share.

What makes Bankrate interesting, however, is that unlike other recent offerings it didn’t even get the hoopla of a big bounce right out of the gate. That bodes very ill for upcoming 2011 IPOs that could include Dunkin’ Donuts, Groupon and Facebook.

Let’s look back at some of the biggest recent offerings to show you what I mean.

First, consider RenRen (NYSE:RENN). The much lauded “Facebook of China” went public on May 5 with an offer price of $14. But shares opened significantly higher, trading at over $19 at the opening bell and gapping up to as high as $24 in its first trading after the IPO. Now? Shares are a measly $6.70 and falling fast. RENN stock is off more than -60% from its debut price. (Related Article: Investors should run screaming from RenRen)

Next in line came LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD), another social networking giant, which was priced at $45 but debuted on May 20 at almost double that – soaring as high as $122 in its first day of trading. Now, LinkedIn stock is at around $68, off nearly -30% from where it opened after its IPO.

Most recently we got a taste of Pandora (NYSE:P). The offer price for the streaming music powerhouse was $16 a share this week, and stock of Pandora flew up as high as $26 out of the gate. But the love didn’t last, and shares dropped precipitously across the rest of the day to close at a loss in the first day of trading. Shares continued to slide and are off -40% from initial pricing.  (Related Article: Pandora faces tough road ahead)

And now we arrive at the Bankrate IPO, the latest in a slew of 2011 stock offerings that has wound up generating significant cash for the corporation but socking it to investors. Worst of all, Bankrate never even gave Wall Street much of a chance to make anything in its first day of trading. It has yet to touch its offer price of $15. Despite current valuations, savvy IPO investors could have jumped out of RenRen, LinkedIn or Pandora at the right time to make a nice profit – though their timing would have had to be impeccable. But Bankrate hasn’t even given traders a chance so far.

Obviously, the Bankrate IPO isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison with the much-hyped tech stocks that have preceded it. A mortgage calculator at doesn’t have quite the appeal of social media or streaming music. And we only have a few hours of trading to judge RATE stock by. But this continuing drumbeat of doubt over IPOs can’t be overlooked, and could have serious implications for the rest of 2011.

If Bankrate’s IPO investors don’t make anything from their initial buy in at $15, it could cause traders to become increasingly skeptical of proposed offer prices for companies going public later this year. Some of those stocks could be huge – with the corporate parent of Dunkin’ Donuts ready to hit Wall Street, along with coupon king Groupon. And let’s not forget that rumors of a Facebook IPO continue to swirl. Despite those big names, however, it could be tough to convince early investors to pay top-dollar for the first batch of shares if the IPO scene has seen so many newly minted stocks fizzle so fast.

Of course, there are bigger factors at work that just these public offerings. The stock market in general has been in a tailspin for six weeks, though it looks like we may finally reverse the trend today. That kind of losing streak hasn’t happened since the week ending Sept. 30, 2002. And that makes investors skittish to buy any stocks, whether they be old blue chips or nifty new offerings.

But even if the market firms up soon, the harsh reality of these last few initial public offerings may hint that companies going public may not have as much leverage as they once thought. That could result in more conservative offer prices – and less funds for these up-and-comers like Groupon and Dunkin’ Donuts that are looking for a big cash influx to help them grow.

Jeff Reeves is editor of As of this writing, he did not own a position in any of the stocks named here. Follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP and become a fan of InvestorPlace on Facebook.

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