Technology and Telecom Firms to Grab IPO Spotlight in 2014

Most of the big deals will come from outside the U.S. this year, but American exchanges stand to win a good share of the business.


Scott Eells

The IPO market promises to be a truly global business in 2014. Eight of the nine largest IPOs in the pipeline are from companies based outside the U.S., according to Renaissance Capital, a Greenwich, Connecticut–based firm that specializes in IPOs. Those deals are expected to raise a total of more than $46 billion. U.S.-based exchanges are likely to win a good chunk of the IPO bounty, though.

Everything Everywhere, trading as EE, a Hatfield, England–based mobile telephone operator formed by the merger of the U.K. operations of Deutsche Telekom and French mobile operator Orange, is at the top of the largest-deals list. The company, the U.K.’s largest mobile operator, reported net debt of £2.35 billion ($3.87 billion) at the end of September. It plans to raise $15 billion with an offering on the London Stock Exchange, according to filings, in part to reduce to reduce its net debt but also to build up a war chest for acquisitions.

Seibu Holdings, a rail and hotel operator based in Tokorozawa, plans to relist on the Tokyo Stock Exchange and raise more than $12 billion, according to exchange filings. Seibu had been delisted by the Tokyo Stock Exchange in 2005 for falsifying shareholder records. In 2006 it sold a 32.4 percent stake to New York private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management for $1 billion, but the relationship between the two soured. In recent months Seibu rejected Cerberus’s offer to boost its stake to 44.67 percent and name four directors to the board. The IPO is seen as an effort by the Japanese company to dilute Cerberus and bring in a new infusion of capital.


Planning a listing in Hong Kong following December’s $3 billion IPO of China Everbright Bank Co., Hong Kong’s biggest IPO of 2013, is China Guangfa Bank (CGB). The bank, formerly known as Guangdong Development Bank, had sought to go public in 2011 like many other mainland lenders but shelved its plans, citing market fluctuations. Like many other Chinese banks, though, CGB needs additional capital to fuel its growth, so it is making another attempt at the public markets in a bid to raise $5 billion. In 2006 Citigroup led an investment group to buy 85 percent of the bank for $3 billion. Citi has a 20 percent stake, and China Life Insurance, State Grid and Chinese state-owned investment company Citic each own 20 percent. Other major shareholders include IBM, which holds 3.67 percent.

Also in the Hong Kong IPO pipeline is the spin-off of HK Electric, the Hong Kong electricity unit of Power Assets Holdings, a Hong Kong–based utility company controlled by local business magnate Li Ka-shing. The company expects to sell up to 70 percent of its unit in the IPO and could raise between $4 billion and $5 billion.

Chinese e-commerce firm Alibaba is expected to file for an IPO through a dual listing in Hong Kong and the U.S., where the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq are vying for the listing. The original plans called for Alibaba to raise $7.5 billion, but the recent market enthusiasm for technology stocks — Twitter’s surge to more than $60 a share from its IPO price of $26 and the highs achieved by many other young technology companies are cases in point — suggests that Alibaba may target raising at least twice that amount, according to estimates by PrivCo, a provider of private company research.

The tech parade does not end with Alibaba. A raft of young companies is waiting on the sidelines to do IPOs, including the online file-sharing outfits Box and Dropbox; Square, the payments company founded by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey; and online dating company Zoosk. Although the amounts these entities plan to raise are modest, the enthusiasm for such tech offerings is encouraging others, such as Alibaba, to enter the waters.


Of course, there are those who believe that technology companies are already overvalued and that any market stumbles might cause investors to pull back. Indeed, none of these companies in the IPO pipeline are in dire need of capital, and private exchanges such as SharesPost already provide the temporary liquidity that many of these outfits may need.

In 2013, 85 percent of the IPOs on U.S. exchanges used their proceeds for debt repayment or to build a war chest for acquisitions, says Jacqueline Kelley, Americas IPO leader for Ernst & Young’s strategic growth markets practice in Irvine, California. This year is not likely to be much different, she adds. “There’s a strong backlog of private equity–backed IPOs that want to use the proceeds from their offerings to pare down debt, and a slew of mature businesses that want cash for acquisitions,” she says. Such companies include Markit, a market data provider; OneWest Bank, a Southern California bank with $26 billion in assets; and Mercury Payment Systems, a North American payment processor. Last year 182 private equity–backed deals raised $56.4 billion, accounting for 35 percent of all global proceeds, according to Ernst & Young. “We expect strong levels of activity in the U.S. and Europe, with private equity continuing to be a key driver,” adds Kelley.

U.S. exchanges, which in 2013 accounted for more than 45 percent of all offerings and more than one third of the capital raised, are poised to continue to win the lion’s share of IPOs during 2014, Kelley believes. Offerings on the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq outperformed those launched elsewhere. IPOs launched on North American exchanges in 2013 posted average total returns of 26.4 percent above their offering price at the end of the year, according to Renaissance Capital. By comparison, returns were 20.8 percent on European offerings, 14.3 percent on Latin American deals and 8.3 percent on Asia-Pacific offerings.

“Positive investor sentiment for this asset class and appetite for global investment make the U.S. attractive and much more competitive than their domestic markets,” she says of international investors. In Asia, meanwhile, regulators’ decision earlier this month to reopen mainland exchanges for IPOs, after a suspension of more than a year, prompted more than 700 companies to file to go public.

“The global issuance markets are coming back, not to the pre-credit-crisis levels but enough to rebuild investor interest and confidence,” says Justin Jacobson, a senior index analyst with Renaissance Capital.

In 2007 there were 555 IPOs around the world that raised a record $264.9 billion, according to Renaissance Capital. Much of that money was raised by financial institutions, such as the investment firm Blackstone Group, Brazilian exchange operator Bovespa Holding Group and Russia’s VTB Bank. Issuance dropped sharply during the 2008–’09 financial crisis, then recovered to raise $234.4 billion in 2010.

The 2013 total of $140 billion, garnered from 300 deals, was far short of historic highs, but an uptick in the global economy and an ebullient stock market have investors feeling more confident about the future. “It’s a perfect environment for IPOs in the U.S. and in the global markets,” says Jacobson.

Get more on banking and capital markets.