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Sync Research Soars in Its Initial Offering : Technology: The Irvine maker of hardware and software sees its stock more than double. Share prices close at $44.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The value of Sync Research Inc. stock more than doubled Friday in its first day of public trading as Wall Street investors snatched up the computer networking company’s white-hot $78-million initial offering.

The stock, which the Irvine maker of hardware and software products sold to underwriters at $20 a share, rose to $48.875 a share before settling back a bit in Nasdaq trading to close at $44.

The 941,750 shares that founder John H. Rademaker hung onto were worth $41.4 million at the close of the day. He also sold 65,000 shares in the offering, for $1.3 million.

Though only 3.9 million shares were offered, many investors took their profits quickly, selling their stock the same day and raising the total number of shares traded to nearly 4.6 million.

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“Sync is at the right place at the right time with the right technology,” said Joe Noel, an analyst at Hambrecht & Quist brokerage in San Francisco. “It operates in a niche within the telecommunications industry, and that subsector is white-hot. There’s tremendous investor interest in a stock like this.”

Sync Research, founded in 1981, has developed products that help a network of computers communicate faster over telephone lines with older mainframe computers built by International Business Machines Corp.

Sync estimates that 50,000 networks are connected with IBM mainframes worldwide and that they accounted for 60% of the world’s data networking expenditures in 1994.

Sync’s stock is the latest in a series of high-technology issues that have been runaway hits on Wall Street. Analysts compared Sync’s opening day to that of Netscape Communications Corp., one of the most successful initial public offerings ever.

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Netscape went public three months ago at $28 a share, well beyond an expected price of $12 to $14 a share, and reached a high of $75 before settling to close its first day of trading at $58.25. On Friday, Netscape hit $102.25 before falling to close at $97.50.

“Sync hasn’t been hyped as much as Netscape, but it is certainly a technology that could be absolutely huge,” Noel said. “Netscape could change the fundamental way of communications for consumers, which is what helped make it so popular. Sync is changing the way businesses communicate.”

To be sure, Sync has competitors, including 3Com Corp. in Santa Clara, which owns an 8% stake in Sync and holds a seat on the seven-member board. And its sales depend to a great extent on explaining its products to major corporations.

So far, it has made some inroads. Either directly or through partners, it has sold its products to such companies as Rockwell International Corp., Chemical Banking Corp., Wells Fargo & Co., Dayton-Hudson Corp.'s Target stores and such government entities as the U.S. Navy, the FBI and the state of California.

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The rage for Sync stock could be understood when looking at the company’s prospects.

But it also can be mystifying, considering that the company has lost money for the last four years, accumulating a deficit of $8.2 million, and that its $11.9 million in sales for last year fell far short of its originally projected $21 million.

In Friday’s offering, Sync sold 2 million new shares--about 15% of the stock outstanding--and picked up $40 million. Existing stockholders, mainly venture capitalists who had been funding most of the company’s operations, sold 1.9 million shares for $38 million.

Existing shareholders own an additional 11 million shares, but federal trading rules block the sale of that stock for three to six months.

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Sync originally planned to offer the new stock at $12 to $14 a share. That figure crept to $16 a share earlier this week, and the new stock finally was sold to underwriters for $20 a share.

But the stock opened Friday at $35 a share and rose from there, providing a boon to the three investment bankers who underwrote the offering.

“I’m not sure the investment bankers priced the stock correctly considering that it went to $44,” analyst Noel said.


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