ONI Valued at $10 Billion in IPO

ONI Systems Inc. http://www.oni.com (Nasdaq: ONIS) got the big number for which it was looking.

After being priced by lead underwriter Goldman Sachs http://www.gs.com (NYSE: GS) at $25 per share, above the last filed range of $21-$23, ONI today went public and was promptly bid up to the 80s on the Nasdaq market. That puts ONI's market capitalization in the vicinity of $10 billion.

The metropolitan-area optical networking specialist had its IPO delayed for six trading days. A number of industry sources said it was using the time to explore ways to get the best valuation, either through negotiating a sale or waiting for the right market climate. The sale of 8 million shares at $25 raised $200 million for the company, which was backed by venture firms Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers http://www.kpcb.com and http://www.mdv.com Mohr Davidow Ventures.

The shares were boosted by this week's feverish activity in the optical market. On Wednesday, Lucent Technologies Inc. http://www.lucent (Nasdaq: LU) announced it was buying metropolitan optical specialist Chromatis Networks http://www.chromatis.com for $4.5 billion. Demand for emerging networking stocks has been strong, as Juniper Networks Inc. http://www.juniper.net (Nasdaq: JNPR), Redback Networks http://www.redback.com (Nasdaq: RBAK), and Sycamore Networks http://www.sycamorenet.com (Nasdaq: SCMR) have all tacked on at least 20 percent gains in the last week, lifting the valuations of all networking players.

Not everybody was so optimistic about ONI's newfound glory on Nasdaq. Some analysts have been unimpressed with the company's treatment of a pending lawsuit filed by Nortel Networks http://www.nortel.com (NYSE: NT) (see Nortel Sues ONI). ONI has filed a counter-suit (see ONI Strikes Back ).

"ONI has under-represented the impact of the lawsuits," says Gina Sockolow, analyst with Brean Murray http://www.breanmurray.com.

Nortel's lawsuit charges ONI with stealing its employees and patent infringement.

Regardless, ONI's successful offering certainly bodes well for forthcoming IPOs in the optical market. Corvis Corp. http://www.corvis.com is expected to be the next optical networking player to make a run for public money. The company has filed for an IPO and is expected to be priced in the next few weeks.

--By R. Scott Raynovich, Executive Editor, Light Reading (http://www.lightreading.com)
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