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The IPO Buzz: Latter-Day Wise Guys
By: John E. Fitzgibbon, Jr.
Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote “Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late” is especially apropos for last week’s IPO market. After sharp cuts in offering terms, the deals surged in the face of a collapsing stock market. There could be a message wrapped up inside this leading question: Have the bankers learned anything?
Time will tell.
To recap, here’s what happened.
Bankers priced two IPOs last week (excluding one SPAC). They closed on Friday, May 21, with an average gain of 14.1 percent. In contrast, the NASDAQ Composite Index, the barometer of the IPO market, recorded a loss of 5.02 percent for the week. The offerings were:
Accretive Health (NYSE: AH), a healthcare-billing service, priced its IPO of 10 million shares at $12 each to raise $120 million, DOWN 40 percent from its initial filing of 13.3 million shares in a range of $14 to $16 each to raise $200 million. The IPO closed its opening day at $13.55, UP 12.9 percent from its offering price, but still below its original price range of $14 to $16 per share.
ReachLocal (NASDAQ: RLOC), a Web marketing firm, priced its IPO of 4.17 million shares at $13 each to raise $54.2 million, DOWN 28 percent from its initial filing of 4.17 million shares in a range of $17 to $19 each to raise $75 million. The IPO closed its opening day at $14.98, UP 15.2 percent from its offering price, but still well below its original price range of $17 to $19 per share.
Hide That Report Card
Here’s a snapshot of 2010: Bankers have priced 51 IPOs (excluding five unit offerings), according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s filings. At Friday’s close, 19 were in the winner’s circle, 31 were losers and one was unchanged. The average loss – yes, loss -- for the 51 was 3.95 percent. This is not a report card you’d want to take home.
The answer as to what had been happening, and to the year’s ongoing complaint, is that bankers have been too aggressive in pricing their deals. Consider the following:
Twenty-eight of this year’s 51 IPOs had to be cut in size to get them out the door, and their aftermarket performances were poor. Twelve finished their opening day above their offering prices, 14 below and two were unchanged. The average opening-day gain for the 28 was only 0.22 percent.
Bankers’ judgment may have been influenced by last year’s runaway stock market. The Nasdaq Composite started its run on March 9, 2009 (1,268.63) and ran to Dec. 31, 2009 (2,269.19) -- UP 78.9 percent.
The upward momentum was broken after the first of the year.
The Nasdaq Composite skidded to a Feb. 10 closing low (2,126.05), but the bankers’ thinking was still locked into last year’s run. By March 12, 18 IPOs had come to market and 14 had to be cut to attract enough investors to buy them.
But maybe things are changing. Here’s what has happened over the last 10 days:
On April 26, 2010, four companies announced proposed pricing terms for their pending IPOs. The deals were Accretive Health, ReachLocal, Noranda Aluminum Holding (NYSE: NOR) and TeleNav (NASDAQ: TNAV). Each saw their deals cut drastically in price, but each did well during its opening day. Besides the two from last week, here’s the report on the other two:
Noranda Aluminum, an integrated producer of aluminum products, priced its IPO on May 14 when it offered 10 million shares at $8 each to raise $80 million. That was DOWN 68 percent from its initial filing of 16.7 million shares at $14 to $16 each to raise $250.5 million. The IPO closed its opening day at $8.80, UP 10 percent from its offering price, but still well below its original price range of $14 to $16 per share.
TeleNav, a provider of wireless location-based services, priced its IPO of on May 12 when it offered 7 million shares at $8 each to raise $56 million. That was DOWN 33 percent from its initial filing of 7 million shares at $11 to $13 each to raise $84 million. The IPO closed its opening day at $9.80, UP 22.5 percent from its offering price, but still well below its original price range of $11-to-$13 per share.
Worth noting: On April 23, the Nasdaq Composite closed at a 13-month high of 2,530.15 and bankers had to be positive. But things changed. By May 20, the Nasdaq Composite had tumbled 12.9 percent to 2,204.06. A 10 percent retreat from a recent high is considered a correction.  
Now that the stock market has slipped into a correction mode, bankers have started getting realistic on pricing IPOs over the last two weeks.
Maybe they are getting wise?
With a less aggressive pricing approach, the IPO market could do well. Reportedly there are some interesting deals in the pipeline, such as CBOE Holdings and Tesla Motors, and with the right pricings, there could be sparks in the IPO market.
Disclosure: Neither the author nor anyone else on the staff has a position in any stocks mentioned, nor do they trade or invest in IPOs. The author and staff do not issue advice, recommendations or opinions. 
Disclaimer: A SCOOP Rating (Wall Street Consensus of Opening-day Premiums), is a general consensus taken, at press time, from Wall Street and investment professionals concerning how well an IPO might perform when it starts trading. The SCOOP Rating does not reflect the opinions of anyone associated with The SCOOP ratings should not be taken as investment advice. The rating merely reflects the opinion of the professionals at the time of publication and is subject to last-minute changes due to market conditions, changes in a specific offering and other factors, such as changes in the proposed offering terms and the shifting of investor interest in the IPO.
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