'Candy Crush Saga' maker King files for IPO

7:20 PM, Feb 18, 2014   |    comments
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Candy Crush, no. 1 downloaded Apple app of the year. (Photo: King)



(USA TODAY) The creator of the hit mobile game Candy Crush Saga has filed papers to become a publicly traded company.

Game company King.com filed its F-1 form with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday for an initial public offering. The company plans to trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol "KING." The company did not disclose the stock's IPO price. Banks J.P. Morgan, Credit Suisse Securities and BofA Merrill Lynch will lead the offering.

The company, founded in Stockholm in 2002, will attempt to raise as much as $500 million for the IPO.

According to its IPO filing, King boasted an average of 128 million daily active users last month who played their games more than 1.2 billion times a day. The smash hitCandy Crush Saga, which first launched on Facebook before surging in popularity on mobile devices, makes up a significant portion of those numbers. The game has 93 million daily active users who played 1 billion times a day.

However, that one game has proven to be highly lucrative for King. According to financial information shared in its IPO filing, the company pulled in $568 million in profit off of $1.9 billion in total revenue last year. In 2012, the year Candy Crush Sagawas introduced, King generated $164 million in revenue and $7.8 million in profit.

"We believe we have a repeatable and scalable game-development process that is unparalleled in our industry," said King in its filing.

"We've tried to change the market - not follow it," King CEO Riccardo Zacconi told USA TODAY in an exclusive interview in London in September.

Gartner analyst Brian Blau says the most important issue facing King is convincing investors it can continue growing without leaning on Candy Crush Saga, which has generated the bulk of its revenue.

"While Candy Crush has been a huge success, and that's great for the company, the big question is, can they do that again, or can they use it to propel themselves into a spot to have other successes?" he says.

King will need to convince investors their company is more than just one game, that it's part of a broader foundation for attracting a wide mobile audience, says Forrester analyst Julie Ask. "This is a company that has learned how to monetize mobile moments," she says.

Analysts cautiously point to Zynga. It went public in December 2011, riding high on hit products such as FarmVille and CityVille. But its IPO landed with a thud, amid concerns about its overreliance on Facebook, dimming growth prospects and outsize control by then-CEO Mark Pincus. Soon, the products weren't hits, either.

King isn't a one-crush pony, however. Three of its games rank among the top 10 on Facebook. "They are simply good at what they do," says Sean Ryan, Facebook's director of games partnership worldwide.

King's IPO filing is the latest in a string of high-profile public tech offerings. Last November, social network Twitter began trading on the New York Stock Exchange at $26 a share. Its stock closed at $58.18 on Tuesday.

As with many social-media stocks such as Twitter and Facebook, King's mobile growth will likely be a key figure watched by investors. King says during the fourth quarter of 2013, 73% of the revenue paid by users for virtual items for skill tournaments came from mobile.

"They've cracked the code with how to get consumers to engage with them daily," says Ask.

By Brett Molina, USA TODAY; Contributing: Associated Press

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