Perritt Capital Management whitepaper titled, “The State Of The IPO Market.”

Investors continually debate the value of initial public offerings, or IPOs. On the one hand, investors see the soaring initial returns for a company after its IPO, and want to know how to think about investing in such a stock, and perhaps how to invest in the opportunity. On the other hand, many IPOs “break”, or fall below the initial offering price, at some point sooner or later after the IPO date, and investors then regret jumping into the stock.

  • Is an IPO a chance to invest on the ground floor of a potential winner, or a trap for investors that benefits only the founders and their bankers?
  • Is a broken IPO a failed investment, or a hidden opportunity?

We set forth to understand the factors these days that drive performance of stocks after an IPO. We want to know what drives value, what causes an IPO to break, and how smart investors can take advantage of IPOs for individual portfolios. Many other scholars and analysts have researched IPOs over the decades. One of the most cited efforts, studying IPOs from 1975-1984, affirms that IPOs perform well in their first few days or weeks, followed by as many as three years of underperformance.1 A similar analysis affirms this conclusion, with the additional finding that the timing, both for the IPO and for the period analyzed, can affect the results.

We applied the approach from this research to more recent IPOs, to see what we can learn about the environment in the past few years.

  • Performance of an individual IPO depends mostly on valuation of the shares at the time of the IPO. Not surprisingly, companies with higher valuations tend to decline in value sooner or later after an IPO, while companies with more moderate valuations improved.
  • IPOs are more “popular” in some instances than in others. By this we mean the timing (year) of the IPO and the industry sector also influence performance. IPO pricing and valuation was higher in some years and for some industry sectors than in others. In this analysis, IPOs from 2012 and 2013 performed better than ones from 2014 and 2015. IPOs in biotechnology performed worse than those in other industry sectors.
  • A relatively smaller number of IPOs have outperformed the rest significantly. An astute investor can find suitable IPOs for investment, if he or she has the discipline to invest at reasonable valuations, and the patience to allow IPO companies to reach that valuation.

Perritt Capital Management – Over 700 IPOs

We assembled a data set of all U.S. IPOs from 2012 to the present. This data includes 721 individual companies that undertook an IPO from January 1, 2012 to March 31, 2016 (Table 1).

Perritt Capital Management - IPO Market

These companies varied co n siderably in size. The smallest were under $10 million in market capitalization at the time of the IPO. The largest were in the tens of billions of dollars, including Facebook (NasdaqGS:FB) at $82 billion in 2012 and Alibaba Group (NYSE:BABA) at $231 billion in 2014. The average market capitalization for all IPOs in the data set was $1.54 billion at the time of IPO.

We immediately see some interesting results for these companies.

Overall, negative returns: The median share price return was -7.7% since the IPO date. Yet, the average share price return was 8.7%, suggesting that a small number of very strong performers dominate IPO performance. (Note the return statistics presented represent total share price change since IPO, and are not annualized or adjusted for performance compared to a benchmark.)

Valuation declines: Valuation, expressed as the ratio of total enterprise value to trailing annual revenues, declined significantly since the IPO date. Yet, some companies dominate the valuation. As of the IPO date, the median valuation was 5.8. As of today, the median valuation declined to 2.3, less than half of the valuation on the IPO date. Similar to returns, a small number of IPOs outperformed the others.

The average valuation as of the IPO date was 17.4, reflecting very high valuations for a small number of companies. This average valuation declined to 9.6 as of March 31, 2016.

Larger Companies Performed Better

We analyzed IPO performance relative to company size. We divided the data set into four market capitalization groups (Chart 2).

Perritt Capital Management - IPO Market

Among these groups, the largest companies performed better than small ones (Chart 1).

Perritt Capital Management - IPO Market

Small-cap value investors should find this result encouraging. It suggests a large number of companies that went public since 2012 could represent an attractive investment.

Among these groups, the largest companies performed better than small ones (Chart 1).

Smaller Company IPOs Broken More

IPOs that “break” trade below the initial offering price. They can do this at any point after the IPO date. Broken IPOs may offer an attractive investment opportunity:

  • On the one hand, an IPO with a current price below the IPO price may offer the potential returns that first-day investors sought, but at a reasonable price.
  • On the other hand, a broken IPO may break for a good reason, namely first-day investors mispriced it, and believed they jumped into an opportunity that was likely to deliver suitable value.

For purposes of this analysis, if an IPO trades below the IPO price as of the date of this analysis (January 2016), then it is considered broken, without regard to the date of IPO.

Within the data set, more IPOs were broken (421) than unbroken (300) (Table 3). The market capitalization of the broken IPOs was considerably smaller, at an average of $921 million, compared to $1.56 billion for unbroken IPOs.

Perritt Capital Management - IPO Market

Similarly, smaller companies were more likely to lead to a broken IPO. Among the largest companies, with a market capitalization at IPO of over $3 billion, more IPOs were unbroken (37) than broken (31).

Among companies in all of the other market capitalization groups, more IPOs were broken than unbroken. This is most pronounced in the smallest market capitalization group, under $150 million, in which 67% of the IPOs were broken. In the other market capitalization groups, between $150 million and $3 billion, about 55% of the IPOs were broken.

Smaller companies not only had broken IPOs more often, they also broke “harder”. Overall, unbroken IPOs experienced a median return of 51.3%, compared to a median return of -36.6% for broken IPOs (Chart 2). This of course makes sense, as broken IPOs have a negative return as of the date of the analysis.

Perritt Capital Management - IPO Market

These returns vary by market capitalization of the company. The smallest companies, under $150 million in market capitalization, saw returns of -42.0%, compared to -25.8% for the largest companies (over $3 billion).

IPO Timing Influences Performance

By timing, in this analysis we mean the calendar year of the IPO. This view suggests that in some years, IPOs are higher or lower-quality than in other years. Companies and their bankers may bring some IPOs

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