Fluidigm to IPO Market: Ugh, Nevermind

Poor Fluidigm has had more false starts than national health care reform. The South San Francisco biotech-equipment maker was originally slated to become the fourth venture-backed outfit to go public in 2008.  Then Lehman Brothers collapsed, pulling the U.S. economy with it; Fluidigm’s Nasdaq debut was postponed. Later, it was shelved.

Now the company, which last year announced plans to go public in 2010, tells Bloomberg that it’s yet again reconsidering, given the lousy performance of the IPOs so far this year. Six of the seven IPOs on U.S. exchanges have priced below their expected ranges, including, most worryingly to Fluidigm, 2010’s first drug-development IPO, Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, which had to cut its shares by 25 percent at the eleventh hour.

“It’s not at all clear to me the market is there,” CEO Gajus Worthington tells Bloomberg, adding that the company might try again later in the year or else in 2011. “When we do this, we want it to be wildly successful.”

So must its very long list of investors, who’ve sunk nearly $216 million into the company over the last 12 years, including an $18.5 million slug last November in its eleventh financing round. Among its backers are Tenaya Capital (formerly Lehman Bros. Venture Partners), Fidelity Investments, Alloy Ventures, and InterWest Partners.

Last year, Fluidigm disclosed that revenues for the first six months of 2009 were $9.3 million, more than double the $4.4 million it reported for the first half of 2008. It has yet to reach profitability. In 2008, it was hoping to raise roughly $80 million through an IPO, money that would support its R&D and commercialization efforts.

A handful of other companies have delayed their IPO plans already this year while three others have withdrawn them.