March 21, 2013

Update: CEO of Charleston?s Benefitfocus won?t confirm IPO report

Brendan Kearney  /  The Post and Courier

Daniel Island could soon be home to two publicly traded software businesses.

The news service Reuters is reporting that Charleston-based Benefitfocus has hired three banks to launch an initial public offering of its stock later this year. Reuters attributed the information to two unidentified people familiar with the matter.

Reached Thursday morning, CEO Shawn Jenkins would not confirm an IPO is coming soon.

"Being a private company ... we just don't have the public activity and can't comment on financials and that kind of stuff," he said. "Nothing's changed there in 13 years."

The report said the company is working with Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and Jefferies Group Inc. on the stock sale, and that a registration statement could be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission by next month. Goldman Sachs is an investor in Benefitfocus.

None of the banks has confirmed the report. A Jefferies spokesman declined to comment, a Goldman Sachs spokesman said he'd look into it, and a phone message left at Deutsche Bank has not yet been returned.

Founded a few months into the new millennium, Benefitfocus makes software that enables employees to go online to enroll in and manage their workplace benefit programs, such as their health insurance. Benefitfocus now works with over 300,000 employers.

The company expanded into a second building at its Daniel Island campus in December and announced plans to hire 300 people over the next two years, which would bright the total company headcount to more than 1,000. Benefitfocus also has offices in Greenville, San Francisco, Tulsa and Hyderabad, India.

At that time, Jenkins downplayed the persistent IPO rumors, saying "we don't have any sort of published schedule."

"The good news is a lot of people are interested in our growth and our growing company," he told The Post and Courier then. "And I think when things go well, as they are with Benefitfocus, a lot of continued opportunities open up. But anything would be just speculation by anybody other than us."

The recession was thought to put a damper on IPOs for companies like Benefitfocus. But now the economy seems to be recovering, and the stock market recently reached an all-time high. Also relevant to Benefitfocus was the passage of President Barack Obama's federal health care reforms, which Jenkins has said represents a "big tailwind for our business."

Benefitfocus' headquarters are near the corporate office of Blackbaud Inc., which went public in 2004 and was the last IPO by a Charleston-based company.

See upcoming editions of The Post and Courier more details.