Spotify Is Considering an IPO Without Raising More Money

  • Direct offering would let current investors cash out
  • Untraditional approach could be model for other tech startups

Spotify Ltd., owner of the popular music streaming service, is considering listing its shares on public exchanges without raising any new money, according to a person familiar with the company’s plans.

Spotify, which surpassed 50 million paying subscribers earlier this year, doesn’t feel the need to raise capital but wants to allow long-term investors and employees to cash out, said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing private information. A direct listing would address those needs by letting investors buy Spotify shares from current owners on the open market. That approach would be different from an initial public offering, the more traditional route hot tech startups use to go public and raise money at the same time.

Spotify, founded more than a decade ago by Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon, raised $1 billion in debt two years ago, the same year its revenue surpassed $2 billion. The company is eager to escape the burden of that debt, a convertible loan that will cost the company more money the longer it delays going public. It’s unclear whether a direct offering would satisfy the conditions of the loan.

Spotify, which has yet to report its 2016 financial results, was valued at $8.5 billion at the time of the loan. Major investors in the company include TPG, TCV, Founders Fund, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Accel.

In a traditional IPO, a company offers a block of stock to new investors the night before they are available on public markets for a price determined by underwriters. The company files for the offering to raise new capital to fund expansion.

In a direct listing, Spotify wouldn’t raise money or use underwriters. A direct listing would help Spotify avoid some of the fees and hassle of an IPO, and wouldn’t have to dilute the existing shares of the company. The effort, if successful, could be a model for other start-ups wary of an IPO. MergerMarket reported on Spotify’s consideration of a direct offering earlier.

Spotify had planned to go public this year, and may still, though the company’s concern about the costs could lead it to delay an IPO. Spotify has yet to report a profit, partly because the vast majority of its sales go to the record labels and other rights holders of the songs in its library.

Earlier this week, Spotify signed a new long-term licensing deal with Universal Music Group, the largest record label in the world, that may grant the company some relief. It has yet to reach long-term accords with the two other major labels, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group Corp.