AppLovin, the mobile games company that owns hits such as a Matchington Mansion and Wordscapes, has raised $1.8bn in an initial public offering, giving it a market capitalisation of $28.6bn and making it one of the biggest public debuts of the year.
The company, backed by private equity group KKR, has established itself as one of the power players in mobile gaming in part through numerous acquisitions and has benefited from a boom in usage during the pandemic.
It owns and operates more than 200 games itself and also sells access to its marketing software to other developers, making it easier for them to monetise their apps.
The company priced its shares at $80 ahead of its listing on the Nasdaq on Thursday, according to the regulatory filing, the midpoint of its previously set range of $75 to $85. The issue price gives it a market value many times higher than the $2bn at which KKR purchased a $400m stake three years ago.
The private equity group was selling 2.5m shares in the offering, according to the regulatory filing, but was keeping a stake worth $8.6bn. KKR will also retain 67.4 per cent of the company’s voting power.
AppLovin said its revenue reached $1.45bn last year, up 46 per cent on 2019, although it lost $126m compared to net income of $119m the previous year. In its prospectus, AppLovin said it had compounded annual revenue growth from 2016 to 2020 of 76 per cent.
Several other gaming companies rushed to tap public markets after the pandemic brought them a windfall of new users and despite uncertainty over their prospects as many countries lift restrictions on in-person activities. Pre-teen favourite Roblox joined the New York Stock Exchange last month, and Israeli mobile game developer Playtika listed on Nasdaq in January.
On top of an anticipated slowdown in growth, the industry also faces headwinds from tighter advertising and privacy rules that Apple is scheduled to integrate into its app store in the coming months.
Those changes represented “the biggest challenge” for the mobile gaming industry at the moment, said Craig Chapple, a strategist with research group Sensor Tower, but he said AppLovin might be better positioned to manage them because of its dual revenue stream from operating games and selling its development tools to others.
Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan, KKR, Bank of America and Citigroup led the offering.