Skip to Content

The 7 biggest U.S. IPOs ever – including some surprises

CME Group Ends Year With Trading Floor Confetti DropCME Group Ends Year With Trading Floor Confetti Drop

This year has been a record showing for initial public offerings in the U.S. Companies have raised $73.6 billion so far this year, a more than 84% gain from 2013.

The figures are certainly helped along by one of the massive offerings below (see: Alibaba), but the boom nevertheless reflects the strength of the overall market. The third quarter saw the highest proceeds from IPOs of any quarter since the end of 1999. Not only that, this year’s offerings have performed well, returning an average 8.3% from their offer price, according to data compiled by Renaissance Capital.

Even though this has been a standout year for new issues, it has featured only one of the biggest IPOs ever. On the whole, IPOs this year have raised much more modest sums. For example, Alibaba’s record-breaking $22 billion offering was larger than all the other IPOs combined during the third quarter. The other six blockbuster offerings stretch back as far as 1996.

Here are the 7 biggest IPOs ever.

1. Alibaba Group: $25 billion

Alibaba Group (BABA) has been the headline leading IPO of 2014. The Chinese e-commerce company initially priced its shares at $68 a piece to raise $21.8 billion. After a huge first-day reception, when shares opened 36.3% higher than their offering price, the banks released their overallotment option, making Alibaba’s final IPO total worth $25 billion. That makes it the world’s biggest offer ever, a title previously held by Agricultural Bank of China’s $24.3 billion IPO.

The company’s shares have not performed as well as the first-day pop. Alibaba’s stock is down 2.4% since its Sept. 18 debut.

2. Visa: $17.9 billion

VISA Inc. Chairman and CEO Joseph W. Saunders (3rd right) rings the opening bell on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, on March 19, 2008.

Visa, the world’s largest payments-card network, launched its IPO during the height of the financial crisis in March of 2008 and in the midst of the worst offering market since 2001. Visa priced its shares above the expected range at $44 each, raising $17.9 billion. That made it the largest U.S. IPO at that time.

The offering’s success falsely reassured market-watchers that the worst of the market collapse was over. The S&P 500 index would reach its lowest level during the recession nearly a year later on March 6, 2009.

Visa (V) has proved to be a good bet for those that got in on the ground floor. Its stock has more than doubled since its debut.

3. Enel: $16.5 billion

Enel, the Italian power company, jumped into the U.S. public market in 1999 after the Italian government liberalized the power industry. The company sold 30% of its stock at 4.3 euros a share to raise a total of $16.5 billion. When it started trading on Nov. 1, Enel became the world’s largest publicly-traded electrical utility.

The stock no longer trades on the NYSE. It was delisted in 2007 due to low trading volumes and is now trades in Milan.

4. Facebook: $16 billion

Facebook founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, center, rings the Nasdaq opening bell from Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif.

Facebook had a notoriously rough offering, forcing underwriters to buy the company’s stock on the first day of trading to keep it from falling below its $38 IPO price. Difficulties by Nasdaq in executing trades caused the problem.

Before things went awry in initial trading, Facebook (FB) raised $16 billion, which valued the social media powerhouse at 107 times trailing 12-month earnings. While investors were disappointed that there was no first-day pop, those who stuck with the company’s stock since it’s IPO have gained 105%.

5. General Motors: $15.8 billion

General Motors (GM) CEO Dan Akerson (red tie) rings the opening bell on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange as GM returns to the US stock market on November 18, 2010 in New York, City.

General Motors went public only 17 months after its government-funded bankruptcy in June 2009. The 106-year-old automaker sharply lowered costs and expanded into key growth markets like China, which helped renew investor confidence in a company that required a $50 billion bailout.

GM (GM) priced its shares at $33 each, raising $15.8 billion. At the time, the U.S. Treasury was the largest shareholder, and has since sold all of its common shares. GM’s stock has had a wild ride since its debut, especially given the automaker’s recent high level of recalls. The stock is down nearly 10% since its offering.

6. Deutsche Telekom: $13 billion

Deutsche Telekom, Germany’s largest phone company, raised $13 billion when it went public in the U.S. market in 1996. It is the oldest IPO to make the list. The company delisted from the NYSE in 2010 after saying it wanted to reduce its reporting obligations and administrative costs.

However, vestiges of the company remain on the U.S. market. The company’s subsidiary, T-Mobile US (TMUS), later went public by combining with MetroPCS in a reverse merger in October 2012.

7. AT&T Wireless Group: $10.6 billion

New York Stock Exchange Chairman Richard Grasso, left, escorts AT&T Wireless Chairman and CEO John Zeglis outside the NYSE to view the decorated exterior to celebrate the listing of AT&T Wireless, Thursday April 27, 2000.

AT&T exists today in a form much different form than the AT&T Wireless Group that went public in 2000 to the tune of $10.6 billion. Back then, it was the wireless subsidiary of AT&T Corp., which eventually transformed into Cingular Wireless before wrapping back into its iconic telephone-company parent. The company dubbed the company’s latest iteration the “new” AT&T in 2005. That version of the company still exists pretty much intact today and trades under its historic ticker symbol: T.