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Snap IPO: messaging app valued higher than expected

The company behind the popular messaging app Snapchat is expected to start trading on Thursday after a better-than-expected stock offering.

Snap Inc. passed its first major test on Wall Street as it priced its initial public offering of 200 million shares at 17 US dollars (£13) each.

That is above the expected range of 14 to 16 US dollars (£11 to £13) and values the Los Angeles company at 24 billion US dollars (£19 billion).

Snap's IPO is one of the most anticipated for a technology company since Twitter's stock market debut in 2013.

The Snapchat app is best known for disappearing messages and quirky facial filters for jazzing up selfies.

It is popular with teenagers and younger millennials.

Co-founders Evan Spiegel and Robert Murphy will retain controlling power over all matters at Snap - the Class A stock being sold in the IPO has no voting power.

Amid the stock pricing excitement, questions are being asked by investors over its future.

While Facebook launched in the era of desktop computers and Twitter in text-based mobile, Snapchat jumped straight to photos and videos. In a sense, it is ahead of the game.

But its user growth has slowed down in recent months.

Growth slowed to a crawl since Facebook's Instagram cloned Snapchat's "stories" in August.

With the feature, photos and videos shared by users play in a loop for 24 hours, then disappear. The feature helped Snapchat recover from stagnant growth before, but now it is no longer unique to Snapchat.

After adding 36 million daily active users during the first half of last year, Snapchat picked up just 15 million in the second half.

The number of people downloading Instagram's app has been accelerating during the past six months, suggesting a gradual shift away from the Snapchat app, based on an analysis financial advice site ValuePenguin did of activity in Apple's app store.

While the higher-than-expected pricing looks good for Snap, its troubles are not over.

"What that number means for the longer term - very little," said Chi-Hua Chien, managing partner at Goodwater Capital who originated the VC firm Accel Partners' investment in Facebook and later invested in Twitter while at another firm.

Twitter, for example, shot up nearly 73% on its first trading day and now trades well below its IPO price.

Facebook, meanwhile, saw its stock decline sharply for a few months after going public. Now, it is trading more than three times its IPO price, near a record high.

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