Culture of secrecy lifted as Snapchat files for IPO

Company becomes first US social media platform to do so since Twitter

The IPO prospectus is the first opportunity for outsiders to get a closer look into a company that is known for secrecy

Snap, the maker of the disappearing photo app Snapchat, has filed publicly for an initial offering, the first US social media company to do so since Twitter more than three years ago.

The company filed with an initial size of $3 billion, a placeholder amount used to calculate fees that may change. Snap plans to raise as much as $4 billion in the IPO, people familiar with the matter have said, for a market value of as much as $25 billion.

The company’s net loss widened to $515 million in 2016, on revenue of $404 million, according to the prospectus filed on Thursday. That compares with a loss of $382 million in 2015, on revenue of $59 million.

Snapchat has more than 158 million daily active users, the prospectus shows. Quarterly average revenue per user on a global basis climbed to $1.05 in the fourth quarter of 2016, compared with 31 cents in the fourth quarter of 2015.


Snap plans to use proceeds from the offering for general corporate purposes, which may include acquisitions, the filing shows.

The company said it relies on Alphabet's Google for most of its computing, storage and bandwidth, and any disruptions to Google's cloud functioning could seriously hurt its business. Snap said it plans to spend $2 billion with Alphabet over the next five years to use Google's cloud-computing services.

It also noted that because Snapchat is used primarily on mobile devices, it relies on Google’s Android operating system and Apple’s operating system, over which it has no control. Snap also competes with those companies.

In addition to Google and Apple, Snap named Facebook, including its WhatsApp and Instagram applications, and Twitter, as significant competitors.

Last year, Snapchat filed confidentially for an IPO with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, under the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act. The Jobs Act is a venue for companies with revenue of less than $1 billion to file privately and work out details with the SEC away from the public eye.

The IPO prospectus is the first opportunity for outsiders to get a closer look into a company that’s known for, among other things, its culture of secrecy. The next step will be the roadshow, in which chef executive Evan Spiegel and his management team will endeavour to explain the company’s strategy and prospects to potential investors.

Benchmark Capital holds 12.7 per cent of Class A shares and 22.8 per cent of Class B shares, for a total voting power of 2.7 per cent before the offering. Lightspeed Venture Partners holds 8.3 per cent of Class A shares and 15 per cent of Class B stock, for total voting power of 1.8 per cent.

Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group are leading the offering with JPMorgan Chase and Co and Deutsche Bank AG. Barclays, Credit Suisse Group AG and Allen and Co are also on the deal.

Snap plans to list its Class A shares on the New York Stock Exchange, under the symbol SNAP.