Jul 9, 2020 - Economy & Business

Companies can't resist the white-hot IPO market

Illustration a briefcase tied to  a balloon with a stock market chart on it
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

This is more than just a stock market rebound. The stock market is so frothy now that it's driving a whole slew of corporate actions that otherwise might well not have happened.

Why it matters: The IPO market, in particular, is white-hot. Lemonade, for example, a small home-insurance company, originally indicated that it would go public at between $23 and $26 per share. In the end it priced at $29 — and traded above $70 on its opening day.

  • Palantir, the secretive intelligence tech company that has delayed an IPO for years, cannot resist any longer — it filed to go public this week.

By the numbers: There were 28 IPOs in June, which raised $13.5 billion in total. On average second-quarter IPOs rose 38% on their first day of trading. And the Renaissance IPO Index rose an astonishing 54% over the course of the quarter.

  • Blank-check companies, or SPACs, also had a record quarter. (They're the companies that raise a lot of money by going public, without any idea of what industry they're in; later, they'll use the money to buy a company.) Twenty-four SPACs raised $7.2 billion in the second quarter, with Bill Ackman's $3 billion Pershing Square Tontine Holdings yet to come.
  • Eight previously-existing SPACs became proper companies, including Draft Kings (now worth $11 billion) and Nikola, an early-stage electric-truck company that the stock market values at $20 billion.

Uber didn't IPO again, but it did manage to issue 84 million new shares in order to acquire rival money-losing food-delivery service Postmates — and was rewarded for doing so by seeing its share price go up. That's despite the fact that key terms of the deal still haven't been disclosed.

The bottom line: Even Softbank, the butt of a million jokes and the controlling shareholder in the disaster that is WeWork, is trading at its highest level in 20 years. With valuations like these, expect more companies to start taking advantage of their share price to raise new equity or fund ambitious takeover bids.

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