Action camera-maker GoPro makes picture-perfect debut

A GoPro Hero 3+ camera is seen at the Nasdaq Market Site before before GoPro Inc's IPO in New York City, June 26, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Segar (Reuters)

By Tanya Agrawal (Reuters) - Shares of GoPro Inc, a maker of cameras used by surfers, skydivers and other action junkies to record and post their exploits online, rose as much as 38 percent in their market debut. The company's shares rose to a high of $33 in early Nasdaq trading on Thursday, valuing the company that popularized action cameras for consumers at about $4 billion. GoPro is the first U.S. consumer-electronics company to go public since headphones maker Skullcandy Inc in 2011. Videos taken using the company's wearable cameras have made a big splash on the Internet. The company says its videos attracted more than 1 billion views in the first quarter on YouTube, where its channel has 2 million subscribers. GoPro was founded in 2004 by Nick Woodman, who hit upon the idea while on a surfing trip to Australia. He raised his first funds to develop the camera by selling seashell necklaces along the California coast. "There probably hasn't been a consumer electronics brand as dominant as GoPro has been in its category since the early days of the iPod or the iPad," Dougherty & Co analyst Charlie Anderson wrote in a note to clients. Anderson estimates that GoPro has captured more than 90 percent of the action camera market. Felix Baumgartner's record-setting 24-mile (39-km) jump from a stratospheric balloon was captured using a GoPro camera. That video has attracted nearly 16 million views on YouTube. Olympic gold medal winning snow boarder Shaun White and 11-time world champion surfer Kelly Slater are among well-known athletes who have endorsed the cameras. GoPro cameras have also become popular among bands such as The Rolling Stones and Foo Fighters. The company received an Emmy award in 2013 for its contribution to the television industry. GoPro sold 8.9 million shares, while the rest were offered by selling stockholders, including Woodman and investors Riverwood Capital LP, Taiwanese electronics contract manufacturer Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd and Sageview Capital Master LP. Woodman, the company's chief executive and its largest shareholder with a 48 percent stake, sold about 3.6 million shares. Private equity firm Riverwood owns 16 percent of the company while Hon Hai owns 10 percent through its indirect wholly owned subsidiary Foxteq Holdings Inc. Sageview owns 6 percent. CLICKS WITH INVESTORS The popularity of its Wi-Fi equipped cameras drove San Mateo, California-based GoPro's revenue to nearly $1 billion in 2013, an 88 percent increase from the year earlier. Its net profit doubled to about $61 million. "GoPro is a brand that defines a category, like Band-Aid or Uber, and is growing very fast. It helps that they are profitable," said Rett Wallace, chief executive of Triton Research, which analyzes startups. Woodman's first version of the camera was a 35-mm film camera that was strapped to the wrist and retailed for $30 at surf shops and other niche stores. The company took off in 2009 when it launched its first digital camera that shot HD video. Sales have grown rapidly outside the United States, with international revenue now more than half of the company's total in the first quarter of 2014, up from 35 percent in 2011. GoPro this month hired as president Tony Bates, a former Microsoft Corp executive who was reported to have been a CEO candidate before Satya Nadella's appointment. The IPO raised $427.2 million, after its offering of 17.8 million class A shares was priced at $24, the high end of the expected price range. JP Morgan, Citigroup and Barclays were lead underwriters. (Additional reporting by Anil D'Silva and Neha Dimri in Bangalore; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)