Initial Public Offerings reach new high

Katie Callahan Contributor
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2014 has tied 2007 for the highest number of initial public offerings at the start of the year since 2000, the Wall Street Journal reports.

In 2000, 77 IPOs were filed. In comparison, within the first two months of this year, 42 companies went public, raising $8.3 billion, according to Dealogic.

Even last year’s number of 20 IPOs was considered strong within the first two months. The Wall Street Journal reported that the “IPO market is even hotter now than it was in 2007.” A median of 14.5 annual sales from investors shows increased bidder aggression in the market, said University of Florida finance professor Jay Ritter to the Wall Street Journal.

According to Dealogic, the 2014 average  for U.S. IPO rose 19 percent from its release through Feb. 28. and 5 percent from the time it closed after trading.

The speed of the market’s pick up might be too fast. Ritter said to the Wall Street Journal that nearly 75 percent of companies that released IPOs are unprofitable, with under two-thirds having less than $50 million in annual sales.

Morgan Stanley analysts noted in their research that “In many meetings we’ve had with investors, really starting last fall, the phrase ‘bubble’ or `year 1999′ has been referenced as relevant,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

Warnings about this bubble referenced the Nasdaq Composite Index jump 38 percent and Facebook Inc.’s purchase of WhatsApp Inc. for $19 billion, Bloomberg Personal Finance reported.

(Related: Market interest in Facebook purchase of $19 billion WhatsApp)

Peter Bardwick, former CFO of MarketWatch Inc. and Rocket Fuel Inc. experienced the valuation of both companies doubling in 1999 and 2013. He said businesses were regulated less in the 90s then today.

“Investors have become more discriminating and more focused on the individual businesses,” Bardwick said via phone to Bloomberg Finance. “In the 90s, everything was just going up, and when that stopped, it happened in a really bad way.”

Biotechnology companies, high-risk investments because of drug development, contributed to “smaller average size, lack of profitability and higher prices of IPOs this year,” reported the Wall Street Journal.

Investment bankers interested in increasing companies’ value quickened the pace to get companies public.

Arguments that “this time is different have a vested interest to ensure the investing trend continues,” Ian D’Souza, an adjunct professor of behavioral finance at New York University who co-founded an technology-based equity fund told Bloomberg Finance.

He said that whether the crash occurs now or after the 30 percent increase in the market, the bubble would be “a combination of psychology and liquidity.”

The past “dot-com bust” serves as a warning to companies coming into an IPO. The high cost associated with IPOs only enables stable companies to go public, those which are generally older and bigger than new start-ups or small businesses.

Bloomberg Finance reported that the price to come into the market is still a fraction of what it was in the dot-com period, even with continued rise since 2008, leading analysts and investors to say that too much has changed to implode the market.

Ted Tobiason, a leader in equity capital markets for the technology industry at Deutsche Bank AG, worked through the bubble at “Internet-focused Robertson Stephens & Co. in 2000. He said that despite these various warnings, companies are still going to take advantage of the market.

“None of these factors is preventing companies from capitalizing on the environment, yet the shadow of the dot-com bust lingers,” said Tobiason.