PLEASANTON -- Cloud-software company Workday is ready for its coming-out party, and the decorations should be exquisitely expensive.
The Pleasanton-based company priced shares for its initial public offering Thursday at $28 -- higher than the company had indicated just two days ago -- putting at least $637 million in the company's coffers and establishing an initial valuation of about $4.5 billion.
Workday's shares are scheduled to begin trading on Friday on the New York Stock Exchange, under the symbol WDAY.
Former PeopleSoft leaders David Duffield and Aneel Bhusri founded Workday in 2005. Duffield left PeopleSoft after Oracle (ORCL) bought the company in a hostile takeover that was bitter and marked by numerous twists and turns.
"Workday has a pretty good business model," said Tim Bajarin, principal analyst with Campbell-based Creative Strategies, a market researcher. "They are able to show investors a consistent revenue curve."
Like PeopleSoft, Workday sells software for human resources. Workday, though, chose a different delivery platform. The company rents cloud-based software, rather than making customers buy expensive licenses and endure lengthy and complex installations.
"Workday has a proven track record with its products," Bajarin said.
Cloud software -- also known as software as a service, or SaaS -- has become the hottest enterprise offering, with companies relying on the delivery method rewarded handsomely. Cloud software companies have been popular targets for acquisitions by larger software companies, with Oracle, SAP and IBM spending billions recently on Bay Area companies like SuccessFactors, Taleo and Ariba. Silicon Valley companies have also found eager buyers for freshly minted stock in the sector this year, including Palo Alto Networks, Infoblox and Proofpoint.
The amount that Workday raised would make the company's offering the largest IPO by a cloud computing firm -- and the largest market debut by a tech company of any kind since Facebook's IPO, analysts said.
The IPO market took a while to get back on its feet after Facebook's botched debut on the Nasdaq in May. Only four U.S. companies went to market in June, the lowest monthly total since the depths of the recession in 2008, Renaissance Capital reported.
However, solid debuts in the third quarter from San Francisco real-estate information service Trulia, Palo Alto Networks and Qualys helped turn the tide. Sam Hamadeh of independent data analysis firm PrivCo said that Trulia's successful opening in September was "an opening bell for other IPOs."
That prediction has proved true, with IPOs heating up through Thursday, when four companies made their debut on Wall Street, and all four reached increases of more than 30 percent in their first day of trading.
Workday originally filed for its IPO privately last summer, using provisions of the federal JOBS Act to avoid public scrutiny, but gave that route up quickly and filed in August for an IPO of as much as $400 million. On Oct. 1, the company publicly filed plans to offer almost 23 million shares at $21 to $24 apiece, but they increased that range to $24 to $26 in an updated filing Tuesday.
The company has yet to turn a profit but shows the revenue growth that investors crave in an IPO, with overall revenues rising from $25.2 million to $68.1 million to $134.4 million in the last three full fiscal years. In the first six months of the 2012 fiscal year, that growth continued with revenues of $119.5 million, though losses totaled $47.3 million.
"Of all the current IPOs, Workday may have the strongest business model," Bajarin said.
Staff writer Peter Delevett contributed to this report. Contact Jeremy C. Owens at 408-920-5876; follow him at Twitter.com/mercbizbreak.