Taiwan’s latest entrant to Wall Street has had a rough ride since it went public a week ago.
Shares of Perfect Corp., a software company that allows users to virtually try on makeup or jewelry from brands such as Estée Lauder, LVMH and Shiseido, have fallen more than 40% from their listing price since they began trading on the New York Stock Exchange a week ago.
Perfect Corp. lends its technology to beauty and fashion brands. It uses augmented reality and artificial intelligence to help users test products online before they buy them.
The firm’s valuation rose to approximately $1 billion after merging with Provident Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), days before its listing. Shares of the newly combined business began trading last Monday under the ticker symbol “PERF,” and have since slid about 46% from the opening price of $15.80.
The broader S&P 500 index has lost approximately 14% in the last five days, according to data provider Refinitiv Eikon.
SPACs are shell companies with limited or no operating assets. They usually go public solely to raise money from investors that is then used to buy existing businesses.
Daniel Ives, managing director and senior equity analyst of Wedbush Securities, said investors could be cautious about Perfect Corp. because “in a risk-off market, an augmented reality play with Taiwanese roots is a glass-half-empty name.”
“Tech stocks across the board have been weak and any geopolitical added risks will be a concern in this market,” he told CNN Business.
Taiwan is a self-governed democratic island that the Communist leadership in Beijing has long claimed as part of its territory, despite having never ruled over it. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this year, some foreign investors have expressed concerns over the risk that China could increase its military force against Taiwan.
Perfect Corp. said it raised approximately $119 million in the deal.
The company chose to list in the United States because much of its clientele is based there, founder and CEO Alice Chang said in an interview with CNN Business. She said that she was wearing her own “digital makeup” and virtual earrings on the video call.
Chang started Perfect Corp. in 2015 as part of a unit at Cyberlink, a tech company in Taiwan, which later spun it off as a separate business. Cyberlink continues to be one of the firm’s investors, along with global brands such as Chanel, Goldman Sachs
(GS) and Snap
Chang said the company would use the proceeds from its SPAC merger to expand in Southeast Asia, fund research and development, and double down on new capabilities of its technology, such as letting users try on accessories beyond jewelry.
“We just joined jewelry, fashion,” she said. “This is just the beginning.”
Perfect Corp. is part of the software-as-a-service industry. The firm now has offices in cities around the world, including New York, Paris, Tokyo and Shanghai, and caters to more than 450 brands, said Chang.
It brought in $40.8 million in revenue last year, and is aiming for sales of more than $100 million by 2024, according to regulatory filings.
It all started with a selfie, according to Chang.
About nine years ago, Chang would frequently take photos of herself to share with friends and family, and often found herself wishing there was a way for users to instantly polish their appearances. The idea eventually led to a mobile app called YouCam, which allows users to instantly retouch their skin without looking “fake,” she said.
The question was: “How can I link the virtual beauty with the real world beauty?” Chang recalled. “I believe if you let [the] user try more, they will buy more.”
That hypothesis has carried the company forward on its pitch to brands, even as popular consumer platforms such as Instagram offer similar filtering technology.
Perfect Corp. is one of a handful of Taiwanese companies to list in the United States in recent years, according to Dealogic data.
Its arrival comes just months after Gogoro (GGR), a Taiwanese electric scooter startup backed by Al Gore and one of Apple’s biggest suppliers, had its own day on Wall Street. The company also went public in New York this April after merging with a SPAC, raising at least $335 million in cash at the time. Its shares are down 68% so far this year.