On Thursday, President Obama plans to sign the JOBS Act into law. The law passed in recent weeks by the House and Senate rolls back all sorts of rules surrounding IPOs. Backers suggested this was necessary to help goose a flagging IPO market.
But lo, what do we have here? According to PwC’s Q1 IPO Watch:
“The US IPO market showed significant strength in the first quarter of 2012, resulting in the highest first quarter volume since 2007.”
Wait, you mean it did that without even a series of gratuitous cuts in regulations? It seems even more clear that claims of an IPO crisis were vastly overstated. And unfortunately, a Congress that simply wanted to do something, anything, to make it look like they were doing something to create jobs went gleefully along for the ride.
Two key points to note from the PwC report:
- “In the first quarter of 2012, a total of 44 IPOs raised $5.8 billion in proceeds, representing an increase of 33% compared to 33 pricings in the first quarter of 2011.”
- “The average IPO size in the first quarter of 2012 decreased 67% to $131 million, from $395 million in the first quarter of 2011, largely due to the lack of billion-dollar deals pricing in the current quarter.”
Clearly the first is good news for any boosters of the IPO market. But what of the second point? Part of the justification for the legislation was that it had become too hard for smaller and mid-size IPOs to get out of the chute. But it would seem, in fact, that many such companies are finding their ways to IPOs just fine:
- Annie’s of Berkeley debuted last week and saw its stock boom in the first day of trading, despite only having $117 million in annual revenue.
- Vocera which posted a measly $79 million in revenue also had a strong IPO last week.
- CafePress, reporting annual revenue of $175 million, had a so-s0 first day of trading.
These are all the types of IPOs we were told that just weren’t possible. And yet we had three of them last week.
So why is the IPO market looking strong? According to PwC, it’s because the markets have been less volatile, and because the IPOs have for the most part been performing strongly after their debuts. That’s increasing investor appetite, which was the real fix the IPO market needed. And that’s what Kathleen Shelton Smith, co-founder of Renaissance Capital, an IPO research firm, told Congress in her testimony that I quoted a couple weeks ago when I wrote a column against the JOBS Act:
“The most powerful fix for the IPO market would be to improve returns for IPO investors,” Smith said in her congressional testimony. “Unfortunately, there is little policymakers can do on this front.”
So, Congress can’t say they weren’t warned, if they chose to ignore her. Of course, that didn’t stop them from doing something anyway. And now it seems we’ll be left paying the price for years to come for it looks like we didn’t need in the first place.