Stock market listings bloom before the arrival of the “unicorns”

Dropbox, Spotify, Uber, Lyft … As IPOs pick up dramatically in the United States, some tech giants dubbed “unicorns” are preparing to hit markets.

In January, 18 Initial Public Offering (IPO) were registered in the country for $7.9 billion of capital raised, a record-breaking start to the year since Dealogic compiled these statistics in 1995.

The year 2017 had already shown the way of the recovery after a slump of three years, 189 companies having entered the United States for $49.4 billion raised capital.

“Wall Street is in very good health, the political context is stable now, the results of companies in the world are good and there is currently no major geopolitical threat that could delay the introduction process”, said Alex Ibrahim, head of the international capital markets division of New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).

Despite the recorded drops on the courses of Snap and Blue Apron since their very remarkable introduction last year (respectively -20% and -70%), the beginnings of the great majority of the newcomers were solid.

The firm Renaissance Capital, specializing in IPOs, noted a gain of 26% on average between the arrival on the market of companies introduced last year and end of 2017.

This favorable environment encourages certain “unicorns”, unlisted companies valued beyond $ 1 billion, of which a hundred are counted in the United States alone, to prepare the ground for their next arrival.

Dropbox, Spotify …

This is the case of the specialist online file storage Dropbox. The company, valued around $10 billion after its last round in 2014, filed in January a confidential application for IPO in the United States, according to the US press.

This request could lead to an IPO by the summer.

Allowed since 2012 by a US law and expanded last summer to large companies by the US Securities Regulator (SEC), this procedure aims to promote IPOs without having to reveal publicly confidential information, at least not before an advanced stage .

“Time to determine if institutional investors have an appetite for the company and if this appetite offers the level of valuation it considers necessary” for its development, said Douglas Ellenoff, a lawyer in business law.

According to Ibrahim, this procedure is used today by 75% of companies that are launching a listing process.

The Swedish music streaming giant Spotify would also be on the list to list the New York Stock Exchange via a direct listing procedure, subject to a green light from the SEC expected soon.

Direct listing, an atypical procedure the NYSE uses to attract new businesses, saves costs associated with a traditional IPO, such as some commissions paid to banks to help companies attract investors. It also prevents companies from raising new capital.

According to the Wall Street Journal , about $ 30 million will be paid by Spotify to the investment banks that follow the operation, which is three times less than when Snap was introduced.

Abundant capital

“Investment banks are usually paid a lot of money to allow a proper listing process. My fear is that the pricing mechanism is not as transparent and mature as it would be in a traditional IPO, “says Ellenoff. In his opinion, this would open the way to a risk of high price volatility in the first exchanges following the introduction.

Like Spotify, widely supported by private investors with deep pockets for several years, other unicorns could follow this model, say many observers. Uber, Lyft or Airbnb are regularly mentioned, the latter, however, said Thursday that it did not provide IPO this year.

“I do not think there will be a tidal wave. But they could follow this path if Spotify’s beginnings are a success, “says Ellenoff.

Kathleen Smith, co-founder of Renaissance Capital, is, however, more skeptical: “There is a reason that direct listing has not been used in the past. The many commissions and meetings that Spotify will need to fund to reach investors could ultimately cost it more in the long run. ”

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