An initial public offering (IPO), referred simply as an "offering" or "flotation", is when a company (called the issuer) issues common stock or shares to the public for the first time. They are often issued by smaller, younger companies seeking capital to expand, but can also be done by large privately-owned companies looking to become publicly traded.
In an IPO the issuer may obtain the assistance of an underwriting firm, which helps it determine what type of security to issue (common or preferred), best offering price and time to bring it to market.
An IPO can be a risky investment. For the individual investor it is tough to predict what the stock or shares will do on its initial day of trading and in the near future since there is often little historical data with which to analyze the company. Also, most IPOs are of companies going through a transitory growth period, and they are therefore subject to additional uncertainty regarding their future value.
Reasons for listing
When a company lists its shares on a public exchange, it will almost invariably look to issue additional new shares in order at the same time. The money paid by investors for the newly-issued shares goes directly to the company (in contrast to a later trade of shares on the exchange, where the money passes between investors). An IPO, therefore, allows a company to tap a wide pool of stock market investors to provide it with large volumes of capital for future growth. The company is never required to repay the capital, but instead the new shareholders have a right to future profits distributed by the company and the right to a capital distribution in case of a dissolution.
The existing shareholders will see their shareholdings diluted as a proportion of the company's shares. However, they hope that the capital investment will make their shareholdings more valuable in absolute terms.
In addition, once a company is listed, it will be able to issue further shares via a rights issue, thereby again providing itself with capital for expansion without incurring any debt. This regular ability to raise large amounts of capital from the general market, rather than having to seek and negotiate with individual investors, is a key incentive for many companies seeking to list.
There are several benefits to being a public company, namely:
- Bolstering and diversifying equity base
- Enabling cheaper access to capital
- Exposure and prestige
- Attracting and retaining the best management and employees
- Facilitating acquisitions
- Creating multiple financing opportunities: equity, convertible debt, cheaper bank loans, etc.
- Increased liquidity for equity holder
IPOs generally involve one or more investment banks known as "underwriters". The company offering its shares, called the "issuer", enters a contract with a lead underwriter to sell its shares to the public. The underwriter then approaches investors with offers to sell these shares.
The sale (allocation and pricing) of shares in an IPO may take several forms. Common methods include:
A large IPO is usually underwritten by a "syndicate" of investment banks led by one or more major investment banks (lead underwriter). Upon selling the shares, the underwriters keep a commission based on a percentage of the value of the shares sold (called the gross spread). Usually, the lead underwriters, i.e. the underwriters selling the largest proportions of the IPO, take the highest commissions—up to 8% in some cases.
Multinational IPOs may have as many as three syndicates to deal with differing legal requirements in both the issuer's domestic market and other regions. For example, an issuer based in the E.U. may be represented by the main selling syndicate in its domestic market, Europe, in addition to separate syndicates or selling groups for US/Canada and for Asia. Usually, the lead underwriter in the main selling group is also the lead bank in the other selling groups.
Because of the wide array of legal requirements, IPOs typically involve one or more law firms with major practices in securities law, such as the Magic Circle firms of London and the white shoe firms of New York City.
Usually, the offering will include the issuance of new shares, intended to raise new capital, as well the secondary sale of existing shares. However, certain regulatory restrictions and restrictions imposed by the lead underwriter are often placed on the sale of existing shares.
Public offerings are primarily sold to institutional investors, but some shares are also allocated to the underwriters' retail investors. A broker selling shares of a public offering to his clients is paid through a sales credit instead of a commission. The client pays no commission to purchase the shares of a public offering; the purchase price simply includes the built-in sales credit.
The issuer usually allows the underwriters an option to increase the size of the offering by up to 15% under certain circumstance known as the greenshoe or overallotment option.
A venture capitalist named Bill Hambrecht has attempted to devise a method that can reduce the inefficient process. He devised a way to issue shares through a Dutch auction as an attempt to minimize the extreme underpricing that underwriters were nurturing. Underwriters, however, have not taken to this strategy very well which is understandable given that auctions are threatening large fees otherwise payable. Though not the first company to use Dutch auction, Google is one established company that went public through the use of auction. Google's share price rose 17% in its first day of trading despite the auction method. Brokers close to the IPO report that the underwriters actively discouraged institutional investors from buying to reduce demand and send the initial price down. The resulting low share price was then used to "illustrate" that auctions generally don't work. Perception of IPOs can be controversial. For those who view a successful IPO to be one that raises as much money as possible, the IPO was a total failure. For those who view a successful IPO from the kind of investors that eventually gained from the underpricing, the IPO was a complete success. It's important to note that different sets of investors bid in auctions versus the open market—more institutions bid, fewer private individuals bid. Google may be a special case, however, as many individual investors bought the stock based on long-term valuation shortly after it launched its IPO, driving it beyond institutional valuation.
The underpricing of initial public offerings (IPO) has been well documented in different markets (Ibbotson, 1975; Ritter 1984; Levis, 1990; McGuinness, 1992). While Issuers always try to maximize their issue proceeds, the underpricing of IPOs has constituted a serious anomaly in the literature of financial economics. Many financial economists have developed different models to explain the underpricing of IPOs. Some of the models explained it as a consequences of deliberate underpricing by issuers or their agents. In general, smaller issues are observed to be underpriced more than large issues (Ritter, 1984, Ritter, 1991, Levis, 1990) Historically, IPOs both globally and in the United States have been underpriced. The effect of "initial underpricing" an IPO is to generate additional interest in the stock when it first becomes publicly traded. Through flipping, this can lead to significant gains for investors who have been allocated shares of the IPO at the offering price. However, underpricing an IPO results in "money left on the table"—lost capital that could have been raised for the company had the stock been offered at a higher price. One great example of all these factors at play was seen with theglobe.com IPO which helped fuel the IPO mania of the late 90's internet era. Underwritten by Bear Stearns on November 13, 1998, the stock had been priced at $9 per share, and famously jumped 1000% at the opening of trading all the way up to $97, before deflating and closing at $63 after large sell offs from institutions flipping the stock . Although the company did raise about $30 million from the offering it is estimated that with the level of demand for the offering and the volume of trading that took place the company might have left upwards of $200 million on the table.
The danger of overpricing is also an important consideration. If a stock is offered to the public at a higher price than the market will pay, the underwriters may have trouble meeting their commitments to sell shares. Even if they sell all of the issued shares, if the stock falls in value on the first day of trading, it may lose its marketability and hence even more of its value.
Investment banks, therefore, take many factors into consideration when pricing an IPO, and attempt to reach an offering price that is low enough to stimulate interest in the stock, but high enough to raise an adequate amount of capital for the company. The process of determining an optimal price usually involves the underwriters ("syndicate") arranging share purchase commitments from leading institutional investors.
A company that is planning an IPO appoints lead managers to help it decide on an appropriate price at which the shares should be issued. There are two ways in which the price of an IPO can be determined: either the company, with the help of its lead managers, fixes a price or the price is arrived at through the process of book building.
Note: Not all IPOs are eligible for delivery settlement through the DTC system, which would then either require the physical delivery of the stock certificates to the clearing agent bank's custodian, or a delivery versus payment (DVP) arrangement with the selling group brokerage firm..
Main article: Quiet period
There are two time windows commonly referred to as "quiet periods" during an IPO's history. The first and the one linked above is the period of time following the filing of the company's S-1 but before SEC staff declare the registration statement effective. During this time, issuers, company insiders, analysts, and other parties are legally restricted in their ability to discuss or promote the upcoming IPO.
The other "quiet period" refers to a period of 40 calendar days following an IPO's first day of public trading. During this time, insiders and any underwriters involved in the IPO are restricted from issuing any earnings forecasts or research reports for the company. Regulatory changes enacted by the SEC as part of the Global Settlement enlarged the "quiet period" from 25 days to 40 days on July 9, 2002. When the quiet period is over, generally the underwriters will initiate research coverage on the firm. Additionally, the NASD and NYSE have approved a rule mandating a 10-day quiet period after a Secondary Offering and a 15-day quiet period both before and after expiration of a "lock-up agreement" for a securities offering.
Stag profit is a stock market term used to describe a situation before and immediately after a company's Initial public offering (or any new issue of shares). A stag is a party or individual who subscribes to the new issue expecting the price of the stock to rise immediately upon the start of trading. Thus, stag profit is the financial gain accumulated by the party or individual resulting from the value of the shares rising.
For example, one might expect a certain I.T. company to do particularly well and purchase a large volume of their stock or shares before flotation on the stock market. Once the price of the shares has risen to a satisfactory level the person will choose to sell their shares and make a stag profit.
- ^ a b "Petrobras raises $70 bn in world’s largest IPO". The Financial Express. September 25, 2010. http://www.financialexpress.com/news/petrobras-raises-70-bn-in-worlds-largest-ipo/687403/. Retrieved 2010-10-09.
- ^ "Quiet Period". Securities and Exchange Commission. August 18, 2005. http://www.sec.gov/answers/quiet.htm. Retrieved 2008-03-04. "The federal securities laws do not define the term "quiet period," which is also referred to as the "waiting period." However, historically, a quiet period extended from the time a company files a registration statement with the SEC until SEC staff declared the registration statement "effective." During that period, the federal securities laws limited what information a company and related parties can release to the public."