US IPO Market to Be Volatile, Unpredictable in 2012

Thursday, 29 Dec 2011 01:43 PM

By Sheryl Nance-Nash

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Put your seatbelt on. The U.S. IPO market next year is expected to be unpredictable and turbulent, according to a new survey of American transaction attorneys by KCSA Strategic Communications, a communications firm specializing in financial public and investor relations, social media, and creative marketing services.

KCSA tapped a pool of 50 securities attorneys whose firms were of counsel to 70 percent of the IPOs on major U.S. exchanges this year.

What’s their gut telling them? A total of 92 percent said they think the IPO market will be relatively flat compared to 2011. The headline grabbing IPO next year, they say, will be Facebook.

One of the big surprises from the survey is the waning love affair with China. There was a 22 percent drop off in positive sentiment toward Chinese-based company issuances. Concerns about corporate governance issues arose as 78 percent of respondents named China as a continuing strong driver of U.S.-based IPO issuances in 2012, compared to 100 percent in the 2011 survey.

“Everyone has been so gaga about China over the last five years. The investor community is starting to take a second and harder look and there are real concerns about corporate governance, accounting irregularities and other fundamental and systemic losses,” says Sharron Silvers, managing director of KCSA.

However, while attitudes toward China may be cooling, countries with strong original technologies, natural resources or sources of energy are of tremendous investor interest, said Jeff Corbin, KCSA’s CEO, in a prepared statement.

What could make the most difference in the IPO market? A stable Europe, healthier U.S. economy and good market performance, primarily, according to respondents.

Nearly 60 percent also said that regulatory changes, like the Schumer Bill would make it easier for small companies to access the U.S. capital markets.

For example, the bill contains a package of items that are intended to lower the disclosure burdens on smaller companies, lower the cost of being pubic and to fundamentally alter key aspects of the IPO process, points out survey participant Colin Diamond, a partner at White & Case.

So what’s the advice for companies considering an IPO next year?

“Don’t wait for the markets to stabilize before kicking off the IPO process. Plan ahead. Be ready to launch a road show as soon as a market window opens," Diamond says. "Companies that are venture or private equity-backed, should also consider running a ‘dual-track’ process whereby they undertake a sale process at the same time as the IPO in order to maximize the possibility of completing a successful exit, notwithstanding market conditions.”

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