Shares of U.S. gaming company Roblox Corp closed up 54.4% in its New York Stock Exchange trading debut on Wednesday, valuing the company at $45.2 billion. San Mateo, California-based Roblox is among the world's most popular gaming sites for children and offers a host of games across mobile devices and gaming consoles. The company's stock opened at $64.5 and ended trading at $69.47, up from the reference price of $45 per share set on Tuesday and based on where its stock had been trading in less liquid private markets. "This is a milestone along a journey that started over 15 years ago," Roblox Chief Executive David Baszucki said in an interview before the stock started trading. "Going public can bring awareness to our company, we can safely show our financials, we can show the value of what we're doing," Baszucki said. At its closing price, Roblox would have a fully diluted valuation, which includes unvested stock options and restricted stocks, of $45.2 billion and a market capitalization of $38.2 billion. Roblox said in January it had raised around $520 million in a new Series H private fundraising round in a deal with a fully diluted valuation of $29.5 billion, more than seven times the $4 billion valuation in its Series G round 11 months earlier. Roblox is going public through a direct listing rather than a traditional initial public offering. This means the company is not selling any shares in advance of its market debut, as is the case with IPOs. Roblox has benefited from U.S. demand for video games surging last year as consumers, amid lockdowns to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, sought home entertainment. "We want COVID to end as quickly as possible. At the same time, what we've seen in the midst of COVID is Roblox has been used to bring people together," Baszucki said. The company is expanding into other countries and is also making inroads with older users, passing the phase where more people over the age of 13 will be on the platform than under 13, Baszucki said. Goldman Sachs & Co, Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan, Allen & Company, BofA Securities and RBC Capital Markets were the financial advisers on Roblox's listing. REUTERS
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