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Half of 2021’s IPOs are suddenly trading below their offering price

December 13, 2021, 3:36 PM UTC

Wall Street is turning into a bleak home for some of the public market’s newest residents.

A Fortune analysis of S&P Global Market Intelligence data shows that about half of the stocks involved in the 100 largest U.S. initial public offerings in 2021 are currently trading below their offer prices.

It’s a notable list that stretches across industries, continents, and company sizes. Big-name companies like Bumble and Robinhood have fallen below their initial IPO price, while others like Oscar Health and Playtika have, too. Didi Global, the Chinese ride-hailing giant whose stock has been battered ever since a probe into the company was launched by the Cyberspace Administration of China, is on the list. And while there are plenty of stocks like Affirm, Rivian, and GlobalFoundries that have soared since their debuts in the public markets, those are the outliers. 

The Renaissance IPO exchange-traded fund, which currently tracks a basket of 106 stocks that have gone public in recent years, was down 11.5% on the year, as of Friday morning. Just three weeks ago, it was up 7% on the year. The S&P 500, meanwhile, was up about 25%. In other words, investors have started to sour on newly public stocks over the past few weeks—and fast. 

Not that the IPO market’s gatekeepers and watchers are worried about what the recent struggles mean for the new year.

“Even in a market that’s a little bit schizophrenic—risk on and risk off—you can have IPOs come and trade well through that cycle if they’re properly valued and distributed in the right hands,” Nomura global co-head of investment banking Jeff McDermott tells Fortune. “There’s no reason to expect that it will be an adverse IPO market next year.”

An IPO stampede

The underwhelming performance comes on the heels of what has been a blockbuster year for public listings

With the Federal Reserve pumping billions into the financial system since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the U.S., stocks have been on a complete tear. A record 388 operating companies debuted in the U.S. in 2021, raising $30.2 billion in the process, as of Dec. 7, according to data from Renaissance Capital. For the sake of comparison, more companies have gone public in 2021 than in 2019 and 2020 combined. The numbers become even more staggering when including SPACs—the blank-check structures that ballooned in popularity earlier in the year and have had surprising staying power. Including SPACs, 962 companies raised a total $275.5 billion in 2021. (That marks a huge jump from 2019 when just 62 SPACs listed in the U.S.)

“We’re in an environment where as long as the public markets are trading at record multiples, and as long as seemingly every IPO is getting priced well, the trends are just going to stay in place,” says Glen Anderson, president of Rainmaker Securities.

The IPO market’s recent struggles have largely existed in secondary trading, meaning that companies are still seeing the first-day stock pops bemoaned by venture capitalists and beloved by headline writers. And they’ve happened quickly. It was a little more than three weeks ago, on Nov. 16, when Renaissance Capital’s IPO ETF was up more than 7% on the year, after all. 

A perfect storm of sorts has hit since, though. Inflation has spiked to levels not seen in decades. The Omnicron mutation of the COVID-19 virus has reignited a swirl of confusion around the state of the pandemic. And the Federal Reserve has adopted a more hawkish tone, signaling that an interest rate hike may be on the horizon. It’s a swirl of factors that have begun to force investors to rethink how they view riskier assets, leading cryptocurrencies to fall off a cliff, shares in technology companies to whipsaw, and, of course, companies that recently did an IPO to falter. 

“In November, we started to see returns take a turn for the worse in the aftermarket,” says Renaissance capital data analyst Avery Spear. “You can’t have almost 400 IPOs in a year and not have fatigue.” 

‘A stock picker’s market’

Nomura’s McDermott is not bearish on the IPO market heading into the new year, though. 

Sure, companies are bound to face a new litany of questions in their deliberations about whether to go public in 2022. Will the Fed hike interest rates? When? Will Russia invade Ukraine? What does that mean for our business? Will China’s crackdown on tech companies continue? But McDermott, who has been helping price IPOs since 1984, still expects a strong equity market environment, the veteran investment banker tells Fortune.

McDermott specifically called out the “built-up reservoir” of private equity-backed companies that are bound to hit the market in the coming years, while adding that businesses in fast-growing areas like digital finance, software, and sustainability practices may be ripe for a listing in the coming months as well.

The recent woes among 2021 IPOs will be a challenge for investors and issuers alike, nonetheless. Companies want to be going public at valuations they see as fit, while investors “need to feel like the deals they’re buying are going to perform,” says David Ethridge, U.S. IPO services leader at PwC. 

And yet, the former New York Stock Exchange executive doesn’t see the IPO window closing any time soon, either.

Until the Fed ends up hiking rates, Ethridge says the market will be one that is built for stock pickers, where investors are “going to have to do their homework and potentially have different time horizons on different stories to see the returns they want to see.”

“It’ll be a clean slate mentality,” Ethridge says of 2022. “People will be surprised at the amount of capital still in place to be put into this asset class, if you want to call IPOs an asset class. There’s going to be a lot of demand for people to go public from the issuer side of the equation.”

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