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James Thomson is the editor of BRW. Previously he was editor and publisher of SmartCompany and a senior editor at Business Spectator. He writes regularly on Australia's wealthiest entrepreneurs and has deep expertise in small business and the mid market.

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Twitter shares soar after float as Evan Williams and Jack Dorsey get their billionaire badges

Published 08 November 2013 08:53, Updated 11 November 2013 08:04

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Twitter shares soar after float as Evan Williams and Jack Dorsey get their billionaire badges

Actor Patrick Stewart (left), Vivenne Harr, Boston police officer Cheryl Fiandaca and NYSE Executive Vice President and Head of Global Listings Scott Cutler at the opening bell ceremony for Twitter’s debut on the Wall Street. Photo: Reuters

Shares in social media group Twitter have soared after listing on the New York Stock Exchange, confirming founders Evan Williams and Jack Dorsey as billionaires.

Investors rushed to snap up shares in the microblogging site moments after the company listed.

The shares opened at $US45.10 ($47.69) a share, up from the initial public offering price of $US26 set on Wednesday. The stock then just kept rising, hitting a high of $US50.

The shares eventually closed at $US44.90 – a rise of 73 per cent on the IPO price.

The biggest individual winner from the float was company founder Evan Williams, who owns a 12 per cent stake of 57 million shares worth an impressive $US2.6 billion based on today’s closing price.

Jack Dorsey, the company's chairman, owns a 4.7 per cent stake in the company, or 22.2 million shares. At today’s close, that stake is worth $US997 million ($1.05 billion).

The biggest shareholder in the company is private equity firm Rizvi Traverse, run by little-known media investor Suhail Rizvi. The firm owns an impressive 85 million shares, a stake worth $US3.8 billion ($4.01 billion).

As is traditional for a new listing, representatives from Twitter were given the honour of ringing the ceremonial bell to start the trading day on Wall Street.

But rather than Twitter CEO Dick Costello taking that opportunity, actor Patrick Stewart, known for playing Captain Picard on the television series (and associated movies) Star Trek: The Next Generation, rang the bell.

He was joined by Vivienne Harr, a nine-year-old from San Francisco who used Twitter to publicise a lemonade stand she ran to raise awareness of child slavery, and Cheryl Fiandaca, the Boston Police Department’s chief of public information. Boston police used Twitter to keep citizens updated after the Boston Marathon bombings.

Twitter said it wanted to make the ceremony about the people who actually use the service.

Twitter’s debut is impressive, but there are still questions about whether the site can monetise its 230 million global users. The company lost $US65 million in its most recent quarter, and analysts have questioned how and when the company will get into the black.

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