Spotify Announces $1 Billion Stock Buyback 6 Month After Going Public

There were several odd events surrounding Spotify's April (non)-IPO.

  • First, the company went public not using a traditional initial public offering with underwriters, but instead through a direct listing of its stock which meant there was no lock-up period for existing shareholders.
  • Second, SPOT sold a tiny 5.6 million shares, or just 3.1% of the company's then 178 million total outstanding shares, resulting in an especially small publicly traded float which exposed the company to excessive volatility and questions about the company's roughly valuation.
  • Third, for various reasons, retail investors never fully fell in love with the popular name, because as the WSJ reported, "the number of Spotify shares eligible for sale is so much higher than in a normal IPO, buyers have been hesitant to jump in for fear of doing so just before a large block of shares comes onto the market."
  • Fourth, SPOT's "IPO" price was $132. After opening for trading at $165.90, the stock climbed as high as $169 before closing 10% below its opening price at $149.01.

The oddness continued after the IPO, and after hitting an all time high price of $198.9 on July 26, the company surprised investors by reporting both an operating loss and cash burn of $33 million in its last quarter, sending its shares sliding 7% in the subsequent two days. The latest rout cemented the company's 30% drop from its all time high.

And so, with nothing working to keep its stock price propped up above its direct listing price, just six months after its "IPO", Spotify today hit "peak oddity" when it announced that it too would resort to the oldest trick in the book, when it unveiled that it would repurchase as much as $1 billion in its own stock. Of note: the size of the authorized buyback is greater than the amount the company sold in the open market back in April.

Spotify said its buyback would expire on April 21, 2021, but judging by the market's reaction, which briefly pushed the stock price higher by 2% before sending it red again, there will be many more buyback programs in SPOT's immediate future as the company scrambles to defend its "going public" price.