Public Markets

Over 80% Of 2018 IPOs Are Unprofitable, Setting New Record

Neon sign: Goodbye Money

Morning Markets: Yesterday we explored the third quarter IPO cohort, noting that a great number of the constituent companies that lost money still had strong debuts. Here is some more data on the theme.

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It’s a growth over profit market. So it’s no surprise that some companies going public are doing so on the back of revenue expansion instead of positive net income. However, the percentage of companies that are going public today toting nothing but red ink in their satchel is setting new record levels.

According to a finance professor cited by the Wall Street Journal, 83 percent of U.S.-listed IPOs that took place during the first three quarters of this year “lost money in the 12 months leading up to their debut.” The Journal goes on to note that the previous record for the statistic was “when 81% of stock-market debutantes were unprofitable.”

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The same professor’s data does contain some good news—14 percent of tech offerings in 2000 were profitable; it’s now 19 percent—but both metrics point to an IPO climate that is more than welcoming to companies of all sorts.

No Profits? No Problem

A number of recent IPOs have featured both unprofitable companies and strong debuts. Indeed, some companies that were profit-free managed to raise their ranges and still enjoy huge first day gains. For example, Eventbrite raised its IPO price range from $19 to $21 per share to a higher $21 to $23 per share price band. Eventbrite then priced at the top of its new range and enjoyed a strong first day, shooting 60 percent higher.

The company didn’t report profit in any quarter it detailed in its final pre-IPO SEC filing.

SurveyMonkey, another third quarter IPO, is a similar story. The company initially said it would go public at $9 to $11 per share. The company priced above that tier, selling its shares for $12 apiece. SurveyMonkey also raised the size of its offering, selling an additional 1.5 million shares through its public debut. Its shares shot 42 percent higher in its first day of trading.

SurveyMonkey reported just a single quarter of profit in its SEC filings. Totting up its net income for the six-quarter period, the firm lost over $50 million.

The IPO cycle continues this week (more here), as it did last week (here), and the week before (here). And who can blame the companies that are getting out while the getting is good?

The last time that public investors welcomed this many unprofitable companies things ended poorly. That may happen this time, or not. No one knows. But what is plain is that standards are down and losses are up.

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