Initial public offerings just had their second-worst year since President Bush—the first one.
A year ago, Fortune reported that the IPO market was showing signs of distress. A desire of startups to stay private mixed with investors’ lack of interest in taking a risk with younger companies looked like it could drain the market for new issues. But the “IP-No” market has taken a worse turn than we expected.
Just $24 billion was raised by newly public companies that listed their shares in the U.S. in 2016, according to data tracker Dealogic. That may not sound so bad, but it makes it the worst year for IPOs since 2003.
Other than that, you would have to go back to 1992 to find a year in which IPOs raised fewer funds. And that includes the financial crisis. So-called new issues raised $27 billion in 2009, and $30 billion in 2008, all while the financial markets in general were in deep distress.
Here’s some more context: Facebook (FB), by itself, raised $16 billion in its IPO in 2012, or roughly 67% of all the money raised by 111 companies that went public in 2016.
Normally, a drop in IPOs is not something to say “uh-oh” about. Typically, it’s a lagging indicator. IPOs drop off well after the market takes a dive. But that’s not what has happened in 2016. This year, the market is up 10%. Yet, funds raised in IPOs were down 33%.
Last week, the last company that is likely to do so in 2016 came public. The deal, for Trivago, a hotel search platform, was widely viewed as a disappointment. So the books are mostly closed on this year’s IPO market, and it wasn’t a good story.
This could be an early warning sign that investors aren’t willing to take risk. And that could be bad for the market in general. It could also mark the beginning of a big shift in corporate America, where more and more entrepreneurs and executives are saying that public markets, with activist investors and a focus a on short-term profits, aren’t worth it. “We are out of here.”
Of course, much of the gains in 2016 came in the end of the year, after Donald Trump was elected. And that was all a major surprise. It’s a short window for companies to get ready to go public. So more deals could be coming in early 2017. There’s heavy talk that Snap, the owner of Snapchat, is gearing up for a big deal.
But if the IPO market doesn’t snap back soon, that could be a sign that there are deeper problems in the market than are clear right now.