BY BRENDAN KEARNEY and JOHN P. McDERMOTT
First there was Blackbaud. Could neighboring Benefitfocus be the next Daniel Island software firm to go public?
The news service Reuters reported late Wednesday that Charleston-based Benefitfocus has hired three banks to launch an initial public offering of its stock later this year. Reuters attributed the information to two unidentified people familiar with the matter.
Reached Thursday morning, CEO Shawn Jenkins would not confirm a near-term IPO.
“Being a private company ... we just don’t have the public activity and can’t comment on financials and that kind of stuff,” Jenkins said. “Nothing’s changed there in 13 years.”
The report said the company is working with Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and Jefferies Group Inc. on the stock sale, and that a registration statement could be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission by next month. Goldman Sachs is an investor in Benefitfocus.
None of the banks has confirmed the report. A Jefferies spokesman declined to comment, a Goldman Sachs spokesman said he would look into it, and a phone message left at Deutsche Bank was not returned.
Founded a few months into the new millennium, Benefitfocus has grown into a local technology anchor.
The company makes software that enables employees to go online to enroll in and manage their workplace benefit programs, such as their health insurance. Benefitfocus now works with over 300,000 employers.
The company expanded into a second building at its Daniel Island campus in December and announced plans to hire 300 people over the next two years, which would bright the total company headcount to more than 1,000.
Benefitfocus also has offices in Greenville, San Francisco, Tulsa and Hyderabad, India.
In December Jenkins downplayed the persistent IPO rumors, saying “we don’t have any sort of published schedule.”
“The good news is a lot of people are interested in our growth and our growing company,” he told The Post and Courier then. “And I think when things go well, as they are with Benefitfocus, a lot of continued opportunities open up. But anything would be just speculation by anybody other than us.”
In January 2012, the firm hired tech finance veteran Milt Alpern as its latest chief financial officer, a move, combined with the recovering economy and Jenkins’ appearances at the annual health care conference put on by investment bank Piper Jaffray, that got people thinking the company would finally go public or sell.
Jenkins also said last year that the passage of President Barack Obama’s federal health care reforms represent a “big tailwind for our business.”
Benefitfocus’ headquarters are just down the road from the corporate office of Blackbaud Inc., which went public in 2004 and was the last IPO by a Charleston-based company.
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