In a flash, Fusion-IO plans secondary

Contact: Brenon Daly

Just eight months after first filing its IPO paperwork and a scant five months after debuting on the NYSE, Fusion-io has already indicated that there will be a lot more of its shares hitting the market in the coming days. The flash memory specialist plans to sell $100m worth of stock in a secondary, with insiders slated to sell another $250m. In its June IPO, Fusion-io raised more than $200m, selling over 10 million shares. In that offering, insiders sold only 1.5 million shares.

Even though other companies often get slammed for insiders ‘running for the exits’ when selling such a large slug of equity so quickly after the offering, Fusion-io stock barely moved when it announced the secondary. If nothing else, that was consistent with the vendor’s overall stunning aftermarket performance. It priced at $19, first traded in the low $20s and was flirting around $36 on Monday afternoon. And although the stock is highly volatile, with some 10% intra-day swings, it only dipped briefly below its offer price in late September. Overall, any investor who bought on the opening day in June is up about 50%, compared to a flat performance during that period on the Nasdaq.

In that way, Fusion-io is rather unique among the other enterprise technology firms that have gone public so far this year. Cornerstone OnDemand, which went public in March, hit the market at about $19. While Cornerstone held that level for its first four months as a public company, it has been underwater for the last four months. It is down about 25% while the Nasdaq has flatlined. Even more dramatically, Responsys has sunk to just half the level it first traded back in April. Although Responsys had been slipping steadily since early September, the online marketing vendor got buried last week when it warned – in just its third report to Wall Street – that sales in the final months of 2011 would increase only about one-third the rate that revenue had been growing.

Fusion-io’s ‘flash-y’ and jumpy M&A currency

Contact: Brenon Daly

In the same breath that it announced quarterly results for the first time, Fusion-io also announced its first-ever acquisition. The flash storage specialist reached for IO Turbine, a caching software startup that had only emerged from stealth mode earlier this summer. Our storage analyst, Henry Baltazar, points out that although IO Turbine was only just getting started, its software had been bundled with Fusion-io’s PCIe flash cards. Fusion-io says the pairing boosts performance, and should open up new markets in virtualized environments.

Fusion-io will use both cash and stock to cover the $95m price of its inaugural purchase. The exact makeup of the consideration wasn’t released, but it’s basically one-third cash and two-thirds equity. That breakdown is noteworthy, given that Fusion-io – with some $220m in cash, thanks to its IPO two months ago – could have easily just used greenbacks to pay for IO Turbine.

Instead, the startup felt comfortable enough to take the majority of its payment in Fusion-io shares, which have been noticeably volatile since their June debut. Consider this: During last Thursday’s rough ride for the overall market, Fusion-io was particularly jumpy ahead of its earnings announcement. Shares opened at $28 each, dropped as much as 14% in the first hour of trading, actually popped above the opening trading price at midway through the session, and then slid almost uninterruptedly to close at the low of the day.

Granted, the trading last Thursday for individual equities was overshadowed by the historic 500-point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average that day. But we would note that the Dow was in the red from the opening bell, while Fusion-io actually rallied into the green at one point before sliding. Given those sorts of swings, it might not be a bad idea for the new holders of Fusion-io shares to look into a hedging plan for their holdings.