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Ad tech provider Rocket Fuel shares nearly double in debut

By Avik Das

(Reuters) - Shares of advertisement technology company Rocket Fuel Inc nearly doubled in their debut as investors flocked to grab a piece of the company that has shown impressive revenue growth.

The company, which helps customers place their ads on websites and mobile networks, sold 4 million shares at the top end of its price range of $27-$29 per share, raising $116 million.

Shares of the company closed at $56.10 on the Nasdaq on Friday after touching a high of $62.50, valuing the company at $2.03 billion.

About 5.56 million shares changed hands during the session, making them one of the most heavily traded stocks on the Nasdaq.

Many smaller ad tech companies are trying to grab market share from Google Inc, whose slice of the business is expected to climb to 20.7 percent next year from 17.6 percent this year, according to eMarketer.

The sector, however, is characterized by hundreds of different companies and it is often difficult to distinguish how one ad tech company's algorithms are better than the next, analysts and bankers say.

"Rocket Fuel is in a hot area combining artificial intelligence and Big Data-driven predictive modeling," said Jay Ritter, an IPO expert at the University of Florida.

Investors feel that Rocket Fuel has a winning technology and are optimistic that the company will be able to grow and become profitable, he said.

Redwood City, California-based Rocket Fuel's revenue has grown dramatically since its inception in 2008, rising nearly six-fold to $106.6 million in 2012 from $16.5 million in 2010.

Net loss, however, widened to $10.34 million for the year ended December 2012, from $4.32 million a year earlier.

The company had 784 active customers, including 65 of the top 100 national advertisers and over 40 Fortune 100 companies as of June 30, its filing showed.

Rocket Fuel is backed by investors including Mohr Davidow Ventures, Nokia Growth Partners, Northgate Capital and Summit Partners.

Shares of cybersecurity firm FireEye Inc closed up 80 percent in their debut as investors rushed to buy shares in the company that helps businesses fend off hackers.

(Reporting by Avik Das in Bangalore; Editing by Joyjeet Das and Sriraj Kalluvila)

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