No initial public offerings (IPOs) remain on the calendar for this year. Although it was a very good year to raise funds, for all intents and purposes, 2018 might have been even better if the year had ended in September.
In the fourth quarter of this year, the average return on an IPO was a tiny 5%, and aftermarket (from first-day trading to the end of the year) returns were a negative 11%. What that forebodes for 2019 remains to be seen. On the one hand, the poor results will negatively affect IPOs coming next year. On the other, some of the tech sector’s most prominent unicorns — Uber, Lyft, Pinterest — are gearing up for IPOs in 2019. A lot depends on how the broader markets perform going forward.
According to IPO ETF manager Renaissance Capital, 190 companies completed IPOs in 2018, up from 160 (19%) compared to 2017. The amount of capital raised rose 32% year over year, from $35.5 billion to $46.8 billion. The median deal size was $108 million, down 10% from $120 million in 2017.
There were 76 health care IPOs in 2018, posting an average return of 8.9% on total proceeds of $9.1 billion. The second greatest number of offerings came from the tech sector, with 52 IPOs posting an average return of 8.1% and total proceeds of $18.4 billion. One consumer company, BJ’s Wholesale Club, posted a top return of 40%. The biggest loser was Argentina’s Central Puerto utility with a loss of just over 43%.
There were 10 firms that raised at least $1 billion on their IPO. The leader was AXA Equitable, which raised $2.75 billion. PagSeguro Digital ranked second with a deal size of $2.27, and China’s iQIYI raised $2.25 billion. For the full list, see Renaissance Capital’s 2018 review of the IPO market.
The best performing IPO was cannabis grower Tilray, which saw a total return of 344%. Only one tech stock is included among the top 10 in returns. Zscaler had a total return of 162%, enough to rank fifth for the year.
The worst performing IPO was health care firm Genprex, which has seen a negative return of 76%. Of the 10 worst performers, seven are health care stocks, two are tech stocks (EverQuote and Sunlands Online Education) and one is industrial (U.S. Xpress Industries).
A total of 44 private-equity backed IPOs raised $16 billion, the highest capital total in four years. Private-equity firms were the big backers of Pinduoduo and ADT. Tilray also was backed by a private equity firm.
Nearly twice as many IPOs were backed by venture capital firms: 87 VC-backed offerings raised $15 billion. VC firms also backed Pinduoduo and Chinese automaker NIO, along with U.K. fashion website FarFetch. Half of all VC-backed IPOs came from health care companies.
There were 46 IPOs from blank-check companies that raised a total of $9.7 billion. Renaissance Capital does not include blank-check IPOs in its totals.
Some 32 Chinese firms raised a total of $8.9 billion from IPOs that trade on U.S. exchanges. That’s twice as many as 2017 and the highest dollar total since 2014, the year Alibaba completed its IPO.
Renaissance Capital commented further on the outlook for 2019:
The IPO market for 2019 is more difficult to predict due to increased volatility caused by domestic concerns about Fed policy and the sustainability of economic growth as well as the fate of Brexit, broader European political instability and trade relations with China. As a result, 2019 IPO activity has a wider range of possible outcomes, from as few as 125 IPOs on the downside to 200 IPOs if the current uncertainties are resolved constructively and the broader market resumes an upward trend. Due to the negative returns for IPOs and the broader equity markets in the 4Q, 2019 IPO activity is more likely to be below 2018. However, proceeds could very well be higher in 2019, because many of the prominent unicorns that were expected to debut in 2018 have announced plans to go public in 2019, including Lyft and Uber.
The new development for 2019 may be a broadening of the IPO market to include fin-tech, consumer discretionary and next generation consumer staples. Examples of these are Robinhood, Casper, and Beyond Meat.