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Is the IPO Market Opening Up? Companies Hesitant to Accept Lower Valuations

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The Challenges of the IPO Market and Lower Valuations

The IPO market has shown signs of opening up, with recent IPOs generating excitement among investors. However, there are several factors to consider before concluding that we are entering a golden age of IPO issuance. While the market may be normalizing, Goldman Sachs' chief U.S. equity strategist, David Kostin, warns investors to be cautious of IPOs with extremely high valuations. Profitability is also a key factor for after-market success.

The Impact of Lower Valuations

Investors are now seeking lower valuations and profitability from IPOs. This poses a challenge for many tech unicorns, as their valuations may not meet these requirements. The IPO gold rush of 2020-2021 was driven by a different macro environment, with a rebounding stock market and plummeting interest rates. However, the current landscape is different, with higher interest rates and the need for clarity around interest rates, inflation, and recession potential.

Implications for Venture Capital

Lower valuations have implications for venture capital firms, which have been a significant part of the IPO market. The percentage of IPOs primarily financed by VC firms has increased since 2020, indicating their involvement in high-valued companies. However, recent data shows a significant decrease in valuations for VC-backed companies that have gone public. This has resulted in losses for venture capital backers, highlighting the challenges of the current IPO market.

Options for Companies Contemplating an IPO

Companies contemplating an IPO have several options in the current market environment. They can raise additional capital in the private markets, consider mergers or acquisitions, or move into the public markets. However, the pricing dynamics for IPOs don't look favorable, leading some companies to opt for private financing. This may result in a future reckoning for companies that cannot meet the criteria for a successful public offering.

The Importance of Profitability

Profitability plays a crucial role in the performance of IPOs. Goldman Sachs notes that the share of profitable IPOs during the recent gold rush was smaller compared to the previous 20 years. This lack of profitability contributed to the poor performance of the 2020-2021 IPO class. Companies like Instacart, which are profitable and have accepted lower valuations, are better positioned for success in the current market.

The Future of the IPO Market

The IPO market is likely to witness a wave of mergers and acquisitions, with distressed M&A firms acquiring struggling unicorns. Some companies may choose to stay private and raise capital in the private markets, as there is still a significant amount of available capital. However, there will be a serious reckoning for companies that cannot meet the criteria for a successful public offering. Only a smaller percentage of companies will move into the public markets, accepting lower valuations. In conclusion, while the IPO market may be opening up, lower valuations and profitability are key considerations for investors. Companies contemplating an IPO must carefully evaluate their options and consider the current market environment. The future of the IPO market may involve a wave of M&A activity and a focus on companies that can meet the criteria for successful public offerings.


The current state of the IPO market presents both challenges and opportunities for new businesses. The shift towards lower valuations and a focus on profitability could be a hurdle for startups seeking to go public. However, this trend also presents a unique opportunity for businesses that can demonstrate profitability and accept lower valuations.

Implications for New Businesses

For new businesses, this means a need for a solid financial foundation and a clear path to profitability before considering an IPO. It also suggests that businesses should be prepared for potentially lower valuations and the implications this could have on their growth strategies.

Looking Ahead

Looking ahead, the IPO market is likely to continue evolving, with a wave of M&A activity expected and a smaller percentage of companies moving into the public markets. New businesses should closely monitor these trends and adapt their strategies accordingly. In conclusion, the current IPO market landscape offers a cautionary tale for new businesses. While the market may be opening up, the criteria for a successful public offering have become more stringent. Businesses that can navigate these challenges and meet the new criteria for success will be well-positioned for the future.
Story First Published at: https://www.cnbc.com/2023/09/19/ipo-market-opening-may-depend-on-sellers-accepting-lower-valuations.html
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