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IPOs: Recent Trends and Developments

By James Dugdale


Overview


Despite the effects of the pandemic and continued lockdowns on the world economy, 2020 saw the number of initial public offerings (IPOs) on the US stock market more than double compared to 2019 – an increase from 233 to 480. Additionally, the first two months of 2021 have so far seen 220 IPOs in the US, indicating that this year is well on track to exceeding the considerable number of US IPOs in 2020. The global IPO market has also performed strongly, with 1,322 companies going public in 2020. This marks a 15% increase in the number of global IPOs compared to 2019, which is more modest growth than the US market, but still significant given the current strains on the world economy.


Recent trends


Alongside the US, China has proven to be a major market for IPOs in recent years. In Q3 2020, the Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE), Shenzhen Stock Exchange (SZSE), and the NASDAQ together accounted for 54% of all IPOs worldwide. Shanghai alone accounted for 25% of global IPOs, with the NYSE and NASDAQ following in second and third place respectively (EY, Global IPO Trends, 2020 Q3).


Q4 2020 was a similar story, although there was an increase in the proportion of IPOs from Oceania and South America. The continued growth of the technology sector was evident, with some of the largest listings coming from technology-focused companies such as Airbnb and DoorDash. Almost a quarter of IPOs in Q4 came from the technology sector, and 2021 shows early signs of being similarly strong for technology companies, with IPOs for companies such as Robinhood Markets and Coinbase on the horizon.


The growing success of technology-focused companies may also account for the rapid growth in emerging markets such as China. Shenzhen, for example, whose share of the global IPO market has seen significant growth over the past year, has likely benefited a considerable amount from its focus on innovation and production within the technology sector. As a global hub for the sector, Shenzhen may prove to be an appealing market for international companies who are looking to access and raise capital in a technology-focused market.


Regulatory challenges


Shanghai and Hong Kong have also been large IPO markets throughout 2020 and continuing into 2021. In late 2020, the Ant Group was on track to be the largest IPO of all time with an estimated value of $37 billion in their dual listing on the Shanghai and Hong Kong stock exchanges. However, in early November regulators suspended the two IPOs. Regulators in the US have also been active, with China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom

being delisted from the NYSE in January 2021.


With the growing regulatory challenges that companies are facing, many companies are looking to diversify their sources of raising capital by offering secondary listings in market across the globe. One such example is the secondary listing of NetEase on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (SEHK) in June 2020. The company’s first IPO was on the NASDAQ stock market, where they have recently faced regulatory challenges from US legislation that threatens to delist the company.


In 2001, NetEase faced similar threats of delisting after accusations of fraud, and offering a secondary listing may provide NetEase with a diversified range of sources for raising capital. With the US and China being the largest markets for IPOs in 2020 and going into 2021, it will be interesting to see which jurisdictions is most popular for companies looking to go public.


IPOs in the UK


Whilst the number of IPOs in the UK may not rival that of the US or China, it is still a significant financial hub and valuable market for raising capital. In fintech (financial technology), where major technology hubs such as Silicon Valley and Shenzhen have excelled, the UK has also been home to major commercial successes. One such example is electronic payment service provider Worldpay, who went public on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) in 2015 with a valuation of $7.4. Worldpay was then acquired by Vantiv for $10.4 billion in early 2018, and then acquired once again in 2019 in a deal with Fidelity National Information Services that was worth an estimated $35 billion. Such success stories are a promising sign for the UK market.


With the increasing prominence and appeal of IPOs in the British market, particularly for growing industries such as fintech, and with the US and China presenting regulatory challenges for some companies, it will be interesting to see whether there is a rise in the number of companies who choose to go public on the LSE.


The British Government appears to be backing the recent surge in interest surrounding the fintech sector in the UK, with a rumoured new visa scheme for fintech employees expected to be introduced in next month’s budget. This would help British fintech firms attract and retain international talent, particularly EU citizens who may have faced employment complications as a result of Brexit.


Summary


The second half of 2020 and the first two months of 2021 have seen a significant number of IPOs across the globe. The US and China have both been popular markets for companies looking to go public, and recent IPOs suggest that both markets will maintain their popularity into 2021. There has also been noticeable growth in the number of technology and fintech companies going public, particularly in Shenzhen, which has emerged as a major hub for technology companies. The UK has also proven itself to be an attractive market for fintech companies, who continue to build upon London’s established financial services industry.


It will be interesting to see how these markets perform throughout 2021, and whether traditionally popular markets for IPOs such as New York will be able to maintain their dominance. The performance of sector-focused markets such as Shenzhen will also be interesting to track, as companies now have a significant number of strong options when it comes to launching an IPO. Across the world there are a number of major flotations expected to take place in the coming months, including Stripe in the US, a secondary-listing by Baidu in Hong Kong, and IPOs by Deliveroo and Jaguar Land Rover on the LSE.

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