The recent hysteria for new cloud-software stocks seemed to ease a bit Friday with Pivotal Software Inc.’s initial public offering, but there are obvious questions about whether that is an issue with Pivotal or if enthusiasm is waning overall.
Pivotal PVTL, +4.87% went public at $15 a share, raising at least $555 million at a valuation of $3.75 billion, slightly higher than its private valuation of $3.3 billion. In its first day of action Friday on the New York Stock Exchange, shares rose 4.9%, a much smaller pop than other recent debuts of cloud software companies. Shares of cloud security company Zscaler Inc. ZS, -2.89% ZS, -2.89% ZS, -2.89% more than doubled on their first trading day in March, while cloud-storage company Dropbox Inc. DBX, -3.28% jumped 35.6% in its debut soon after. Another rookie, Zuora Inc. ZUO, +0.36% , cloud software that helps companies manage their subscription services billing systems, popped 43% just last week.
Pivotal is perhaps more complex for investors to understand, with issues that could hold it back. At its most basic, it is cloud software used to help build and use cloud software. The company is currently controlled by privately held DellEMC, which also helps it resell many of its offerings. In fiscal 2018, agreements with DellEMC and with Dell-controlled VMware Inc. VMW, +0.34% generated 37% of total revenue for Pivotal.
It’s feasible that with Dell controlling the company, some shareholders who want to have more of a voice when it comes to voting their stock decided to stay away. Pivotal’s Chief Financial Officer, Cynthia Gaylor, said that the company operates independently of its controlling shareholder.
“We are in the family of Dell technologies, but we operate independently and have our own management team and our own go to market team,” Gaylor said in a brief interview from the NYSE, also noting that the company’s software platform is agnostic. “We run on all the public and private cloud infrastructures. Our platform is cloud agnostic. We have partnerships with Microsoft MSFT, -1.15% and [Amazon.com’s] AMZN, -1.89% AWS.”
Another possible concern for investors could be that the company’s overall revenue growth rate slowed from 48% in fiscal 2017 to 22% in fiscal 2018. But subscription revenue in fiscal 2018 soared to 73%, up from 58% in fiscal 2017.
“You can’t grow at 70% forever, but the beauty of subscriptions is you can see into the future, so we feel very good about where we are growing,” Gaylor said. “Investors recognize that.”
Pivotal has also reined in its spending, as seen by its shrinking losses. Its net loss was $163.5 million for fiscal 2018, down from $232.5 million in fiscal 2017 and $282.5 million in fiscal 2016.
“We are on a path to profitability,” Gaylor said. “I can’t talk about exact timing [but] we are moving in the right direction.”
Investors looking for cloud computing stocks may also want to wait and see how the company fares in its first quarter as a public company. No one wants to experience another Cloudera Inc. CLDR, +0.96% which saw its shares clobbered on the release of its first earnings as a public company, after it reported a loss that was almost double what analysts had been predicting. Investors don’t like those kind of surprises, and Cloudera has struggled to right the ship even a year later.
Read more: Cloudera enters a storm after weak forecast
We will receive more clues about whether investors are losing enthusiasm for cloud software IPOs next week, when another cloud software company, Smartsheet Inc. SMAR, +0.00% , is expected to sell its first batch of shares, along with highly valued DocuSign Inc. DOCU, +0.00% If those new stocks pop at a rate closer to Pivotal’s predecessors, it could signal that Wall Street saw something it didn’t like in Pivotal.