Benefitfocus’ share double after IPO

Benefitfocus CEO Shawn Jenkins (center, directly behind the Nasdaq sign) was joined by about 50 company associates when he rang the opening bell at the stock exchange on Wednesday.

Benenfitfocus, Charleston’s newest publicly traded company, got quite a reception on its first day of trading.

It started at 9:30 a.m. with CEO Shawn Jenkins ringing the opening bell at the Nasdaq Stock Market in New York City with about 50 company associates.

By the time the exchange closed at 4 p.m., shares of Benefitfocus had more than doubled, ending the session at $53.55. About 6 million shares changed hands.

“It’s been a pretty awesome welcome for us,” Jenkins said around 1 p.m.

He noted that he didn’t sell any shares in the initial public offering, which raised $119 million. Nor did Mason Holland, the Daniel Island company’s chairman and co-founder.

“We’re in for the long haul,” Jenkins said.

Benefitfocus registered the IPO about a month ago. This week it increased the size of the offering to 4.935 million shares at $26.50 each. The previously projected price range was $21.50-24.50 for 4.5 million shares.

The stock jumped 60 percent out of the gate,

“Benefitfocus IPO Goes Big,” the financial website proclaimed.

The 13-year-old firm makes cloud-based software tools that employees can use to compare, sign up for and manage their workplace benefits. Its customers include large businesses and health insurance carriers.

The stock sale coincides with the kick off of federal health care reform, which is expected to drive business to Benefitfocus as employers and insurers adjust to the new rules and regulations.

“We help them adapt to that and really keep them in touch with the requirements to do so,” Jenkins said.

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Management took the business public “to increase our financial flexibility, increase our visibility in the marketplace and create a public market for our common stock,” according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“You’ll see us go after the growth opportunities,” Jenkins said.

Benefitfocus sold 3 million shares.

The rest had been held by the company’s biggest backer, Goldman Sachs & Co., which cashed in some of its $106 million investment.

Benefitfocus has 800 employees at its Daniel Island campus and at office in the Upstate, Oklahoma and San Francisco. Its stock trades on the Nasdaq under the symbol BNFT.

Contact John McDermott at 937-5572