NYSE expecting IPO window to continue throughout 2014
FORTUNE – Lately, it seems like unprofitable tech companies are announcing IPOs every five minutes. And with that flurry of announcements comes the obvious question: Are we in a tech bubble? The question is on the lips of every CNBC anchor and fingertips of Twittering masses. It also came up last week amid a sea of dancing Candy Crush mascots on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
It was a few minutes after King KING, the maker of Candy Crush, had listed itself on the exchange. The stock wound up listing a few dollars below the price its bankers had set the night before, and it promptly traded down upon its IPO. It wasn’t as triumphant a moment as the morning of Twitter’s TWTR IPO, when the stock took an hour to list at almost double the price its bankers had set the night before, resulting in a huge pop.
Was King’s lackluster IPO a sign that investors are wary of a bubble? Scott Cutler, executive vice president and head of global listings at NYSE Euronext, says we are nowhere near 1999-2000 levels for IPOs. In fact, the deal volume we’re seeing now is only slightly up each year since the drought of 2008.
Last year was the first time since the financial crisis in 2008 that the markets experienced a 12-month IPO window. Cutler says he expects this year to have another 12-month window. The exchange did around 150 IPOs last year and expects 2014 to end with 150 to 200. Compare that to 400 to 500 IPOs per year in the ’90s.
“You can say valuations are high,” he says. “But people are willing to pay more for companies that are growing. Investors know there is profitability coming in the future.”
Unlike the dotcom era, many of today’s companies — King included — have profits. Those that don’t — like Box and Twitter — have growth and a big market opportunity. Investors are hungry for growth, and they’re not finding it in other places of the market, Cutler says. “Investors are chasing pure-play growth in health care, energy, technology, financial services, and consumer.”
Within tech, they’re interested in social, mobile enterprise, and cloud companies. “Investors’ overall tech spend is not rising,” Cutler says, “but slices of the pie are going from thick to thin.”
The NYSE has made gains in the tech sector, owing some of its popularity there to NASDAQ’s poor handling of Facebook’s IPO in 2012. This year, 15 tech companies have gone public, 10 of them on NYSE. Three more are expected to list on NYSE this week (GrubHub, OPower, and Rubicon Project). Last year, NYSE handled 30 new technology listings, representing 54% of all tech IPOs in the U.S. and 56% of capital raised in the sector.