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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Morningstar IPO Finally Done

Reported by Sean Hanna, Editor in Chief

Morningstar has found its price. The Chicago-based firm sold its shares to the public at $18.50, a price at the high end of the expected range set by underwriter WR Hambrecht & Co. The auction defied some analysts who predicted that slack demand would mean the shares would head out of the gate at the low end of the price range.

The shares begin trading this morning on the Nasdaq under the "MORN" ticker.

Morningstar backer Softbank Finance Corp, a U.S. private equity arm of Japan's Softbank, raised $141 through the sale of its 20 percent stake in the firm. The Japanese-owned company had purchased its stake near the peak of the dotcom bubble in July 1999 for $91 million.

The IPO has navigated several hurdles on its way to market. Morningstar filed its initial S-1 in May of 2004. Reports the SEC was investigating Morningstar over publishing incorrect data Rock Canyon Top Flight Fund soon delayed the offering. A second probe into how Morningstar recommends funds to plan sponsors in its 401(k) consulting program also slowed the process.

The SEC has not filed any charges relating to the probes.

Morningstar also switched horses in mid-stream, firing its initial underwriter Morgan Stanley after it decided to conduct a Dutch auction for its shares. WR Hambrecht has been the most active underwriter of the rare type of offering.  

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