Sep 5, 2019

The smallest IPO with the biggest impact

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

We've all pulled out folding chairs to watch the post-Labor Day IPO parade. In particular, the floats from high-fliers like WeWork, Peloton, Cloudflare, DataDog, and SmileDirectClub.

Yes, but: Perhaps the most interesting IPO will take place 4,400 miles south of New York, in the tiny South American country of Guyana. The issuer is Pomeroon Trading, an upstart coconut and spice farm co-founded by a Stanford Business School graduate named Duncan Turnbull.

  • It only seeks to raise around $1 million but, if successful, it would be the first-ever agricultural company to list on the Guyana Stock Exchange and only the exchange's third new listing in the past decade.
  • The road-show will stop in Barbados and Trinidad, instead of in San Francisco and Boston.

Why it matters: Guyana, home to fewer than one million people, is poised to become the world's next petro-state, with Exxon Mobil's first major oil production vessel arriving just the other day. But no one knows if tiny country's government can properly manage the inflows, and companies like Pomeroon Trading could help preemptively diversify its exports (i.e., help Guyana avoid becoming the next Venezuela).

Background: Turnbull grew up in Northern England selling pigs. He later became an investment banker and then headed to Stanford, knowing he wanted to work in the agricultural industry.

  • In Guyana he saw the traditional sugar and tobacco crops, but was stunned by the relative lack of coconuts, despite the climate and growing global demand for coconut oil and coconut water.
  • Turnbull and a partner leased out a 1,000 acre farm to form Pomeroon, and got to work creating new on-farm infrastructure and processing facilities, planting dwarf trees, and testing out a few new crops (e.g., passion fruit, moringa).
  • It also hired over 50 locals (half of whom are women), and generated cash crop revenue from existing plants while the new ones grow, with expectations that the IPO would let it lease new land.
  • "It blows my mind that the Caribbean is net importer of coconuts. Even the cruise ships that go around are making handicrafts out of coconuts from India, not from countries like Guyana," Turnbull said.

The bottom line: Again, they're only seeking to raise $1 million. That's usually pocket change in this space. But, for both current Guyana residents and for the country's diaspora, it's an opportunity to invest locally at a time when one of the world's largest companies just laid contractual claim to newfound natural resources.

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