The market for initial public offerings has been surprisingly normal over the past two weeks, at least on the surface.
British chipmaker Arm Holdings, food delivery company Instacart and Klaviyo represented a chance to revive an IPO market that has long been in tatters. But the results have not been convincing.
Arm, Instacart and Klaviyo priced their offerings at or above recent expectations, and their shares rose on the first day of trading. However, they have since retreated and Arm and Instacart's shares briefly fell below their IPO prices. After jumping 25% on the first day of trading, Arm fell for the next six days. Shares of technology companies generally fell last week, dragged down by investors coming to terms with the fact that the Federal Reserve is serious about keeping rates higher for longer.
"All the IPOs started strong and then faded. Until that corrects itself, it's still going to be a weak start for the IPO market," said Renos Savvides, head of capital markets at Neuberger Berman.
IPOs are an important part of the U.S. economy, and if the flow of companies going public slows down, so could capital and job creation. When companies go public, the money from stock sales ends up in the pockets of employees and early investors. If companies go public when they are younger and have more room to grow, their IPOs can allow small public investors to make large profits in the future.
Advisers to Arm, Instacart and Klaviyo realised the importance of their IPOs. They structured the offerings carefully. For example, all three companies secured cornerstone or strategic investors who committed upfront to buy a portion of the IPO.
After all, the IPO market is still sleepy, at least compared to where it was in 2021 before the Fed began its rate hike crusade. In this low-rate world, investors looking for yield have been happy to snap up risky growth stocks, which has driven startup prices to all-time highs. According to research firm Dealogic, traditional IPOs raised more money in the U.S. in 2021 than ever before.
That all came to a screeching halt in November of that year, when Fed members expressed concerns about inflation and warned that they could raise interest rates faster than expected.
The prices investors were willing to pay for fast-growing companies - public and private - plunged. According to Dealogic data, last year saw the lowest amount raised from a US IPO in 20 years.
When Instacart went public last week, it sold its shares at a price that valued it at $9.9 billion on a fully diluted basis. That was well below the $39 billion valuation that Instacart raised in a 2021 funding round.
Skeptics say that means the 2021 vibe is long gone, at least for now. Investors and advisors say Instacart's willingness to take such a significant valuation cut in an IPO is actually a good sign for the market, as it could encourage others to do the same.
"Most venture capital investors realize that the last rounds in many cases represented unachievable pre-listing goals," said Mark Caccavo, managing partner at Millennia Capital, which invests in late-stage venture capital companies.
Other big listings in the past year - including Intel's Mobileye unit, which deals in self-driving cars, consumer health care company Kenvue, Johnson & Johnson, Mediterranean restaurant chain Cava Group and cosmetics company Oddity Tech - also offer a mixed view of the IPO market. Oddity and Kenvue are trading below their IPO valuations; Mobileye and Cava Group are rising.
Fashion shoe designer Birkenstock is expected to float its shares in October, according to people familiar with other IPOs, while healthcare payments software company Waystar is considering a stock offering before the end of the year. IPO advisers say the market is open to large companies with a proven track record.
"Investors are supportive of new issues, but only for certain types of companies," said Chris Donini, managing director at Raine Group, which advised Arm on the IPO. "Investors want to see financial stability and a catalyst for growth."
Savvides, who advises Neuberger Berman's portfolio managers on IPOs, said he now receives three to five requests a week for "trial" meetings from private companies considering an IPO. Six months ago, he was getting maybe one offer a week or none.