A lot is riding on the company's initial offering. Should it succeed, a wave of other alternative lenders, including competitors like Prosper Marketplace and the small business specialist On Deck Capital, could also look to tap institutional investors for millions of dollars in their own market debuts.
Determining the best pricing for Lending Club's I.P.O. has been tricky, since the company will be in a league of its own when it begins trading on the New York Stock Exchange, under the ticker symbol "LC." No other alternative lender currently trades on the public markets, meaning that Lending Club's bankers will have to use otherwise unrelated comparisons like nonfinancial Internet start-ups as benchmarks for the company's performance.
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Behind the rise of such lenders is the belief that traditional banks, hamstrung by tougher capital requirements and expensive infrastructures, have stopped providing certain kinds of loans, particularly to smaller borrowers.
Lending Club's business model revolves around using advanced computer algorithms to match those seeking money with those willing to provide it. Customers with relatively high-quality credit, with FICO scores starting at about 660, can borrow up to $35,000 at interest rates averaging at about 14 percent.
While the initial lenders on the service were individuals, a significant percentage now are big mutual funds and hedge funds.
And though the company began with personal loans, meant for borrowers looking to refinance credit card debt with high interest rates, it has moved into other offerings. Small businesses can now borrow up to $100,000 through the platform.
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Moreover, in November, the lending platform unveiled a new two-year "super prime" loan offering that lets customers borrow up to $10,000.
Lending Club already has the backing of some of the biggest names on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley. Its board includes Lawrence H. Summers, the former Treasury secretary; John J. Mack, the former chief executive of Morgan Stanley; and Mary Meeker, the venture capitalist and onetime star Internet analyst.
And its existing investors range like Google, the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and the mutual fund giants T. Rowe Price and BlackRock.
Only three of the company's existing investors plan to sell in the initial offering, according to the prospectus: Canaan Partners, which is hoping to raise as much as $40.8 million; Kleiner Perkins, which is aiming to garner up to $27.6 million; and Union Square Ventures, which is planning on collecting as much $24 million.
Should the I.P.O. price at the high end of its range of $12 a share, several of Lending Club's other current shareholders will see their wealth rise, at least on paper. The holdings of Norwest Venture Partners, which will amount to 14 percent of the company after the stock sale, will be worth nearly $610 million. Shares held by Renaud Laplanche, the company's chief executive, will be worth about $178.8 million.
The I.P.O. is being led by Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse and Citigroup.