July 30, 2021

(Reuters) -Shares of Robinhood Markets Inc shuffled between gains and losses on Friday, a day after star stock picker Cathie Wood picked up 1.3 million shares of the company for the ARK Invest fund during the online brokerage’s grim market debut.

Robinhood’s shares were up around 3.7% at $36.10 in afternoon trading, after losing more than 8% on Thursday and falling earlier in Friday’s session. Market watchers attributed part of the shares’ weakness to a comparatively cold reception from retail investors who have fueled rallies in the shares of other so-called “meme stocks,” as well as Robinhood’s decision to reserve as much as 35% of its shares for its users.

That performance has not dissuaded Wood, who gained fame on the strong performance of her funds in 2020. According to ARK’s daily update for its actively managed ETFs on Thursday, it bought 1,297,615 shares of Robinhood in its ARK Innovation ETF. At Thursday’s closing price, that would have been worth around $45.2 million.

Other investors stayed on the sidelines, citing concerns over its valuation, the risk of regulation and lingering anger with the company’s imposition of trading curbs during the meme stock trading frenzy in January.

“Calls itself Robinhood, steals from the people. Gotta love it,” said one user on Reddit’s popular WallStreetBets, where retail investors have gathered this year to coordinate buying that has helped drive big rallies in Gamestop, AMC Entertainment Holdings and other names.

Retail investors bought a net $18.85 million of Robinhood stock on Thursday, according to Vanda Research, a relatively low amount compared with other initial public offerings, the firm said. Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Global Inc. saw retail investors buy $69 million on its debut, while Bitcoin exchange Coinbase took up more than $57 million earlier this year.

Data from Fidelity Investments showed customers on its brokerage platform placed 31,736 buy orders for Robinhood’s stock and 7,451 sell orders on Thursday.

In an unusual move, Robinhood had said it would reserve between 20% and 35% of its shares for its users. IPOs can benefit from excluding retail investors, who end up fueling a first-day trading pop by snapping up shares in the open market.

(Reporting by Megan Davies and Aaron Saldanha in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Ira Iosebashvili; Editing by Louise Heavens and Dan Grebler)