Tech IPOs — Hype vs. Reality
Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) generate massive amounts of attention from investors and media alike, especially for new and fast-rising companies in the technology sector.
On the surface, the attention is warranted. Some of the most well-known tech companies have built their profile by going public, including Facebook by raising $16 billion in 2012.
But when you peel away the hype and examine investor returns from tech IPOs more closely, the reality can leave a lot to be desired.
The Hype in Numbers
When it comes to the IPOs of companies beginning to sell shares on public stock exchanges, tech offerings have become synonymous with billion-dollar launches.
Given the sheer magnitude of IPOs based in the technology sector, it’s easy to understand why. Globally, the technology sector has regularly generated the most IPOs and highest proceeds, as shown in a recent report by Ernst & Young.
In 2019 alone, the world’s public markets saw 263 IPOs in the tech sector with total proceeds of $62.8 billion. That’s far ahead of the second-place healthcare sector, which saw 174 IPOs generate proceeds of $22.5 billion.
The discrepancy is more apparent in the U.S., according to data from Renaissance Capital. In fact, over the last five years, the tech sector has accounted for 23% of total U.S. IPOs and 34% of proceeds generated by U.S. IPOs.
The prevalence of tech is even more apparent when examining history’s largest IPOs. Of the 25 largest IPOs in U.S. history, 60% come from the technology and communication services sectors.
That list includes last year’s well-publicized IPOs for Uber ($8.1 billion) and Lyft ($2.3 billion), as well as a direct public offering from Slack ($7.4 billion). Soon the list might include Airbnb, which plans to list within the communication services sector instead of tech.
The Reality in Returns
But the proof, as they say, is in the pudding.
Uber and Lyft were two of 2019’s largest U.S. IPOs, but they also saw some of the poorest returns. Uber fell 33.4% from its IPO price at year end, while Lyft was down 35.7%.