Facebook Poised to Lead Biggest U.S. Internet IPO Year Since 1999 Bubble
Facebook Inc. and Yelp Inc. are set to lead the biggest year for U.S. initial public offerings by Internet companies since 1999, testing demand for IPOs after investors lost money on Zynga Inc. and Pandora Media Inc.
With Facebook considering the largest Internet IPO on record and regulatory filings showing that at least 14 other Web-related companies are planning sales, the industry may raise $11 billion next year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That would be the most since $18.5 billion of IPOs in 1999, just before the dot-com bubble burst.
While surging sales growth may lure investors to Facebook, the biggest social-networking site, heightened stock volatility (VIX) and Europe’s sovereign-debt crisis could temper the pace of global IPOs after a 38 percent decline in 2011. Even Internet companies may cut valuations for their offerings after Zynga, the largest developer of games for Facebook, and online-radio company Pandora slumped following share sales this year, according to researcher Morningstar Inc.
“Technology is still a place where you can get outperformance in terms of growth against a tepid market backdrop,” said David Erickson, New York-based global co-head of equity capital markets at Barclays Plc. “You might see more IPOs emerge if we get resolution in Europe or stability that makes investors more comfortable with the overall market.”
IPOs raised $155.8 billion in 2011, compared with $252 billion a year earlier, and U.S. initial offerings generated $38.8 billion, about 10 percent less than in 2010, Bloomberg data show. In Asia, IPOs this year have raised $79.2 billion, less than half the $176.5 billion last year, Bloomberg data show.
While funds raised in Europe rose for the year, they sank more than 95 percent since August from a year earlier after the worsening debt crisis and a cut to the U.S. credit rating sapped confidence in global markets.
Morgan Stanley (MS) took the biggest share of both U.S. and global IPOs for the second year in a row after working on initial share sales by Glencore International Plc, HCA Holdings Inc. and Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. Pen Pendleton, a spokesman for New York-based Morgan Stanley, declined to comment.
The bank also was the lead underwriter on Zynga and Pandora’s IPOs. The stocks’ declines following those public debuts may prompt greater scrutiny of valuations in 2012, said James Krapfel, an analyst at Morningstar in Chicago.
“Investors will take a harder look at the numbers going forward and need to see strong revenue and profit growth,” Krapfel said. Bookings, an indication of deferred revenue, at Zynga have increased more slowly this year, suggesting the company’s IPO price was too high, according to a Dec. 9 Morningstar report.
Zynga, which raised $1 billion in its IPO this month, has since fallen 2.5 percent after going public at a valuation three times that of rival Electronic Arts Inc., Oakland, California- based Pandora has plunged 36 percent since its June 14 IPO.
Facebook, based in Menlo Park, California, is examining a $10 billion offering that would value it at more than $100 billion, a person with knowledge of the matter said last month. Total sales at Facebook in 2012 may surge 52 percent to 62 percent from this year’s projected $4.27 billion through increased ad revenue, according to Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst at EMarketer. Industrywide, the display ad market may surge 24 percent to $12.3 billion this year.
“Tech offerings generally offer real growth, and investors get very excited when they can’t find growth in the broader market,” JD Moriarty, New York-based co-head of equity capital markets for technology in the Americas at Bank of America Corp., said at a briefing this month.
Yelp, the consumer-review website operator, and e-mail marketer ExactTarget Inc. both filed for IPOs in November. This year, 19 Internet companies generated $6.6 billion in U.S. initial share sales.
Glam Media Inc., a Web-advertising company that targets women, plans to make its first IPO filing by the end of the second quarter, people familiar with the matter said on Dec. 14. AppNexus Inc., the online-ad company backed by Microsoft Corp., may go public in late 2012, Chief Executive Officer Brian O’Kelley said in September. Companies like MobiTV Inc. and Eloqua Ltd., which rely on the Internet to distribute cloud- based software products to clients, may seek an additional $650 million, regulatory filings show.
In Europe, the IPO market has “essentially come to a halt” as the sovereign-debt crisis spread from Greece to Portugal and Italy, said Mary Ann Deignan, New York-based head of equity capital markets for the Americas at Bank of America. In September, Siemens AG suspended an IPO of its Osram lighting unit and Spain pulled the initial public offering of its lottery operator as global stocks headed for a one-year low.
“There are companies that would like to go public, but are waiting for the right market environment to do so,” said Deignan, speaking at a briefing this month. “As long as policymakers and politicians control the headlines, Europe remains a challenge.”
RIB Software AG (RSTA) raised 145 million euros ($189 million) in February, this year’s biggest technology IPO in Western Europe. Yandex NV, owner of Russia’s most popular Internet search engine, raised $1.4 billion in a U.S. IPO in May, while VKontakte, the largest Russian social networking website, also may sell shares in New York next year, people with knowledge of the matter said in June.
“The IPO market in Europe is probably six months behind where we are in Asia and the U.S.,” Brad Miller, New York-based global co-head of equity syndicate at Deutsche Bank AG, said at a briefing this month. The first pickup of stock-sale activity in Europe may come as governments sell state-owned assets to the public through spinoffs, Miller said.
Still, even in Hong Kong, where growth from mainland China will spur demand, a busier calendar may not come until the second half, said John Lydon, co-head of Asia equity capital markets at Deutsche Bank.
Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group Ltd. and New China Life Insurance Co. both fell on their first day of trading in Hong Kong this month after selling shares at or near the bottom of proposed price ranges. Others such as Perfect Shape (PRC) Holdings Ltd. pulled offerings.
IPOs by private-equity firms have also dried up this year, with owners instead pursuing secondary offerings. Last month, firms including Bain Capital LLC, Carlyle Group and Thomas H. Lee Partners LP raised $613 million from selling shares in Dunkin’ Brands Group Inc., the doughnut chain they took public in July. This year, KKR & Co. (KKR) and other investors generated $2.1 billion from secondary offerings of stock in Dollar General Corp., whose IPO occurred in 2009.
Private-equity firms seeking to unravel investments made during the record buyout boom from 2005 to 2007 may follow through with IPOs if markets stabilize, said Robert H. McCooey Jr., senior vice president of new listings and capital markets at Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. in New York.
“Given the right market conditions, there will certainly be some of those companies that will be looking to exit into the public markets,” McCooey said. Toys “R” Us Inc., backed by buyout firms including KKR, filed for an IPO in May 2010 and has yet to complete a sale.
Some technology companies have also held off. Travel- website operator Kayak Software Corp. filed plans for a $50 million IPO in November 2010. LivingSocial.com, which considered a $1 billion IPO earlier this year, instead chose to raise $400 million from private investors, people familiar with the matter said this month.
Many Web-focused companies that completed IPOs in 1999, such as EToys Inc. and Drkoop.com Inc., fell victim to the subsequent technology-stock collapse as shareholders abandoned the unprofitable ventures. The performance of new Internet stocks (RGUSTL) next year will show whether investors are ready to dive back into the Web, said Laurent Morel of Societe Generale SA.
“Technology IPOs are definitely the theme there, with lots of hot names like Zynga coming to the market,” said Morel, the Paris-based global head of equity capital markets. “But if you look at their performance, most of them are struggling. Next year will be the real test.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Lee Spears in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org