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Acquity Group Backs Into Its Public Offering

E-commerce firm prices lower than its expected range


E-commerce consulting firm Acquity Group (AMEX:AQ) struggled with its initial public offering Friday. AQ’s deal ended up pricing at $6, which was below the $8-to-$10 range originally expected, and it headed about 5% lower in Friday trading.

Founded 11 years ago, Acquity has become a top player in the digital agency space — with the main focus on creating e-commerce sites for numerous big-name brands, including Proctor & Gamble (NYSE:PG), Adobe (NASDAQ:ADBE) and Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT). Since inception, the company has served more than 500 clients.

“We focus on something we call brand e-commerce,” Christopher Dalton, CEO and co-founder of Acquity, told me this morning. “It means that the brand must be part of all digital experiences for the customer.”

Essentially, brand e-commerce means personalizing the experience to a company’s customers. This involves connections to social networks like Facebook and Twitter. It also is about taking a multi-channel approach — Acquity has deep experience with tablets and smartphones.

So far, the strategy has been working. The company doubled its revenues — from $51.1 million to $106.7 million — between 2009 and 2011. It also finished $8.3 million in the black last year.

But the big opportunity for Acquity is China. According to IDC, the e-commerce market in China is expected to reach $2.9 trillion by 2015.

“We are helping our U.S. clients benefit from the growth opportunities,” Dalton said. “But we are also getting Chinese clients that want to build e-commerce sites in the U.S.”

Acquity raised about $33 million on the deal. Underwriters included Citigroup (NYSE:C) and Oppenheimer.

Tom Taulli runs the InvestorPlace blog IPO Playbook, a site dedicated to the hottest news and rumors about initial public offerings. He also is the author of “The Complete M&A Handbook”, “All About Short Selling” and “All About Commodities.” Follow him on Twitter at @ttaulli or reach him via email. As of this writing, he did not own a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

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