Last updated: February 7, 2014 9:27 pm

GoPro zooms in on IPO plan

A skier with a GoPro camera on his helmet©AFP

A skier with a GoPro camera on his helmet

GoPro, the maker of small action cameras beloved of surfers and snowboarders, on Friday broadcast its plans for a multibillion-dollar initial public offering.

The company is expected to raise $300m-$500m, one person close to the process said.

JPMorgan, Citigroup and Barclays are advising on the IPO, people familiar with the situation added. JPMorgan and Barclays declined to comment and Citi did not immediately respond.

The Californian device maker has become the latest group to take advantage of rules that allow companies to file their financial documents to the Securities and Exchange Commission in secret. 

Twitter used the 2012 Jumpstart Our Business Start-ups (Jobs) Act ahead of its blockbuster stock market debut last year and other tech groups including cloud storage company Box and games developer King have also used the rules to keep their financial information private in the regulatory run-up to an IPO.

In the past few years, GoPro's $300-$400 Hero devices pioneered the market for hardy, wide-angle-lens cameras that people use to film their own extreme sports activities, sharing videos through social sites such as YouTube. 

It sponsors several athletes competing at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics including former gold medallists Shaun White, a snowboarder, and Julia Mancuso, a slalom skier. The cameras were worn by Felix Baumgartner for his 2012 free fall from the edge of space for Red Bull’s Stratos campaign.

The first Hero, released in 2005, used 35mm film and was created by GoPro’s founder Nick Woodman, whose previous internet company had failed in the dotcom bust. It has been followed by other point-of-view video cameras from Sony and now faces new competition from wearable devices such as Google Glass.

“The wearables segment is hot right now and despite all the hype around smart watches and fitness bands, GoPro’s sales to date mean it is up there as one of the best-selling wearable devices on the market,” said Ben Wood, analyst at technology research group CCS Insight.

Mr Wood says GoPro sold 4m of the 5m “lifelogging” cameras shipped last year, making it the “heavyweight” despite growing competition. CCS Insight estimates almost 7m of these cameras will be shipped this year, taking the total number in use to more than 15m.

“I’d assume that GoPro has realised that now Sony is stepping up with the ActionCam and others like Samsung are doubtless eyeing the category it needs to build a war chest to cement its position as the leading wearable camera brand,” Mr Wood added.

GoPro’s IPO will be one of the first of a new generation of consumer hardware companies to test the appetite of Wall Street investors at a time when Apple, the tech group, has seen its stock price held back by fears about innovation and long-term growth.

In late 2012, a $200m investment by Foxconn, the Taiwanese electronics manufacturer, valued GoPro at $2.25bn, suggesting that investors would expect its forthcoming IPO to value the company into the several billions. GoPro had been considering an IPO but the investment allowed it to delay its plans.

In an interview with Forbes last year, Mr Woodman, 38, said that GoPro’s sales topped $500m in 2012 and were on track to double in 2013.

Only this week, GoPro appointed a new chief financial officer, Jack Lazar, formerly of wireless chipmaker Atheros, a publicly traded company until it was acquired by Qualcomm in 2011. Mr Lazar, who describes himself as an avid mountain biker, has previously acted as CFO at Netratings and Apptitude and is a former PwC accountant.

In a brief press release, GoPro said that it expected the IPO to commence after the SEC had reviewed its confidential submission of its draft registration statement on Friday.

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