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Jumia’s shares have dropped below its IPO price as speculators and shorts hover

By Yomi Kazeem

Four months after a landmark launch on the New York Stock Exchange, Jumia—the largest e-commerce operator in Africa—has crashed below its IPO price.

After launching its IPO at $14.50 per share, the mid-point of its initial share price range, Jumia’s shares reached an all-time low of $14.02 before recovering to close at $14.57 on Monday Aug. 5. By Tuesday morning New York time, it continued to fall by 1.7% to $14.31.

The price dip comes after a weak run for most of July which resulted in a downward price trend and several days of consecutive losses. The trend suggests that the stock price is unlikely to rally with more trades below its IPO launch price imminent.

That outlook contrasts sharply with Jumia’s early-day run on the New York Stock Exchange given a strong opening fortnight amid the novelty of its listing as the first major Africa-focused tech company on the exchange. At one point in the period, Jumia’s shares were trading at three times its IPO launch price, matching predictions from investors well versed in backing e-commerce companies that Jumia would be subject to high interest.

But, as the stock price trend reflects, the positive run and investor enthusiasm has proved ephemeral.

Ominously, Jumia’s share price slide first came amid claims of fraud by Citron Research, a known short stock seller. Citron alleged fraud citing discrepancies in Jumia’s S1 IPO filing with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and an earlier confidential investor presentation.

In response during its first quarterly earnings call following the IPO, Jumia stood by its prospectus and transparency. The call did reveal however that the company’s operating loss widened year on year with the $51 million (€45.5 million) operating loss recorded in the first quarter of 2019 meaning that Jumia had accumulated over $1 billion in losses since inception in 2012.

But the company’s stock has not been able to shake off speculation with at least two law firms issuing press releases claiming Jumia is under investigation and trying to organize class action lawsuits. Neither Jumia, nor the SEC has disclosed any investigation in this period.

Comparing Jumia’s price dip with the S&P 500 Index suggests the retailer’s slide has somewhat been in line with a recent downturn in the wider market especially in the wake of the Trump administration’s ongoing trade war with China with the index down by 2.1% in the same period since Jumia’s IPO launch. But it’s also clear that while the S&P 500 rebounded and grew in June and July following an earlier dip, Jumia’s stock tumbled through those months.

One obvious way to ensure the long-term health of its stock is for Jumia to show a sustainable path to profitability. Even though the objective of profits is unlikely to be achieved soon as Jumia maintains expensive operations across 14 different African markets, the company is taking steps towards growing its customer base to impact revenues: last week, it launched a partnership to set up pick-up stations at Vivo Energy’s over 2,000 fuel station outlets across African countries

The move essentially extends Jumia’s retail network beyond online-only customers by allowing customers place and pick-up orders through physical stations.

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