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Disrupting The IPO Process: Challenging The Banker-Run Going-Public Model

In the age of disruption, where young companies are challenging the status quo and upending conventional businesses, it was only a matter of time before they turned their attention to the process by which they are taken public. For decades, the standard operating procedure for a company going public has been to use a banker or a banking syndicate to market itself to public investors at a “guaranteed” price, in return for a sizeable fee. That process has developed warts along the way, but it has remained surprisingly stable even as the investing world has changed. In the aftermath of some heavily publicized let downs in the IPO market this year, with the WeWork (WE) fiasco topping off the bad news, there is now an active and healthy discussion about how companies should make the transition to being public. Change may finally be coming to the going-public game and it is long overdue.

Going Public? The Choices

When a private company chooses to go public, there are two possible routes that it can take in making this transition. The more common one is built around a banker or bankers who manage the private to public transition:



There is an alternative, though it seems to be seldom used, which is to do a direct listing. In this process, a private company lets the markets set the price on the offering date, skipping the typical IPO dance of setting an offer price, which in retrospect is set too low or too high.



The company still has to file a prospectus, but the biggest difference is that it cannot raise fresh capital on the offering date, though existing owners can cash out by selling their shares. That is not as much of a problem as it sounds, since the company can choose to raise cash in a pre-listing round from interested investors, or to make a secondary offering, in the months after it has gone public. In fact, one advantage that direct listing have is that there is no lock-up period, as there is with conventional IPOs, where private investors cannot sell their shares for six months after the listing. If you are interested in the details of a direct listing, this write-up by Andreesen Horowitz sums it up well. Let’s be clear. If this were a contest, the status quo is winning, hands down. While there have been a couple of high-profile direct listings in Spotify (NYSE:SPOT) and Slack (NYSE:WORK), the overwhelming majority of companies have chosen the status quo. Furthermore, the status quo seems to be global, indicating either that the benefits that issuing companies see in the banker-based model apply across markets or that the US-model has been adopted without questions in other markets.

The IPO Status Quo: The Pros and Cons

To understand how the status quo got to be the standard, it makes sense to look at what issuing companies perceive to be the benefits of having banking guidance, and weigh them off against the costs. In the process, we will also lay the foundations for examining how the world has changed, and why the status quo may be under threat.

The Banker’s case

Looking at the status quo picture that I showed in the last section, I listed the services that bankers offer to issuing companies, starting with the timing and details of the offering, all the way through the after-market support. At the risk of sounding like a salesperson for bankers, let’s see what bankers bring, or claim to bring, to the table on each of the services:

  1. Timing: Bankers would argue that their experience in financial markets and their relationship with institutional investors give them the insights to determine the optimal timing window for a public offering, where the investment stars are aligned to deliver the highest possible price and the smoothest post-market experience.

  2. Filing/Offering Details: A prospectus is as much legal document as it is information disclosure, and past experience with other initial public offerings may allow bankers to guide companies in what information to include in the prospectus and the language to use to in providing that information, as well as provide help in navigating the regulatory rules and requirements for public offerings.

  3. Pricing: It is on this front where bankers can claim to offer the most value added for three reasons. First, their knowledge of public market pricing can help them bridge the gap with the private market pricing preceding the offering, and in some cases, reduce unrealistic expectations on the part of VCs and founders. Second, they can help frame the offer pricing by finding the best metric to scale the pricing to and identifying the peer group that investors will use in public markets. Third, by reaching out to investors, bankers can not only gauge demand and fine tune the pricing but also isolate concerns that investors may have about the company.

  4. Selling/Marketing: To the extent that multiple banks form the selling syndicate, and each can reach out to their investor clientele, bankers can expand the investor base for an issuing company. In addition, the marketing that accompanies the road shows can market the company to the larger market, attracting buzz and excitement ahead of the offer date.

  5. Underwriting Guarantee: At first sight, the underwriting guarantee that bankers offer seems like one of the bigger benefits of using the banking-run IPO model, but I am afraid that there is less there than meets the eye, since the guarantee is set first and the price is not set until just before the offering, and it can be set below what you believe investors would pay for the stock. In fact, if you believe the graph on offer day price performance that I will present in the next section, the typical IPO is priced about 10-15% below fair price, making the guarantee much less valuable.

  6. After-market Support: Bankers make the case that they can provide price support for IPOs in the after-market, using their trading arms, sometimes with proprietary capital. In addition, researchers have documented that the equity research arms of banks that are parts of IPO teams are far more likely to issue positive recommendations and downplay the negatives.

At least on paper, bankers offer services to issuing companies, though the value of these services can vary across companies and across time.

The Bankers’ Costs

The banking services that are listed above come at a cost, and that cost takes two forms. The first and more obvious one is the banker’s fees for the issuance and these costs are usually scaled to the issuance proceeds. They can range from 3% to more than 8% of the proceeds, with the percentage costs increasing for smaller issuers:



While issuance costs do decrease for larger issuers, it is surprising that the drop off is not more drastic, suggesting either that costs are more variable than fixed or that there is not much negotiating room on these costs. To provide an example of the magnitude of these costs, the banking fees for Uber’s (NYSE:UBER) IPO amounted to $105 million, with Morgan Stanley, the lead banker, claiming about 70% of the fees.

There is a second cost and it arises because of the way the typical IPO is structured. Since investment banks guarantee an offering price, they are more inclined to underprice an offering than over price it, and not surprisingly, the typical IPO sees a jump in the price from offer to opening trade on the first day of trading:

Thus, the median IPO sees its stock price jump about 15% on the offering date, though there are some companies where the stock price jump is much greater. To provide specific examples, Beyond Meat (NASDAQ:BYND) saw a jump of 84% on the offering date, from its offer price, and Zoom’s (NASDAQ:ZM) stock price at the end of its first trading day was 72% higher than the offering price. Note that this underpricing is money left on the table by issuing company’s owners for the investors who were able to get shares at the offering price, many preferred clients for the banks in the syndicate. In defense of banks, it is worth noting that many issuing company shareholders seem to not just view this “lost value” as part of the IPO game, but also as a basis for subsequent price momentum. That argument, though, is becoming increasingly tenuous since if it were true, IPOs, on average, should deliver above-average returns in the weeks and months after the offering date, and they do not. If momentum is the rationale, it should also follow that newly listed stocks that do well on the offering date should deliver higher returns than newly listed stocks that do badly and there is no evidence of that either.

Revisiting the IPO Process

Given the costs of using banks to manage the going-public process, it is surprising that there have not been more rumblings from private market investors and companies planning to go public about the process. After the WeWork and Endeavor (NYSE:EDR) IPO debacles, the gloves seem to have come off and the battle has been joined.

The Bill Gurley Case for Direct Listings

Bill Gurley has often been an atypical venture capitalist, willing to challenge the status quo on many aspects of the VC business. For many years now, he has sounded the alarm on how private market investors have paid too much for scaling models and not paid enough attention to building sound businesses. In the last few months, he has been aggressively pushing young companies to consider the direct listing option more seriously. His primary argument has been focused on the underpricing on the offering date, which as he rightly points out, transfers money from private market investors to investment bankers’ favored clientele. In fact, he has pointed to absurdity of paying for an underwriting pricing guarantee, where the guarantors get to set the price much later, and are open about the fact that they plan to under price the offering. I don’t disagree with Bill, but I think that he is framing the question too narrowly. In fact, the danger with focusing on the offer day pricing jump runs two risks.

  • The first is that many issuing companies not only don’t seem to mind leaving money on the table, but some actively seem to view this under pricing as good for their stock, in the long term. After all, Zoom’s CFO, Kelly Steckelberg, seemed not only untroubled by the fact that Zoom’s stock jumped more than 70% on the offering date (costing its owners closer to $250-$300 million on the offered shares), but argued that that Zoom “got the most added attention in the financial community,” and even picked up business from several of its IPO banks who she said are “trialing or have standardized on Zoom now.”

  • The second is that Gurley’s critique seems to suggest that if bankers did a better job in terms of pricing, where the stock price on the offer date is close to the offer price, that the banker-run IPO model would be okay. I think that a far stronger and persuasive argument would be to show that the problem with the banking IPO model is that changes in the world have diluted and perhaps even eliminated that value of the services that bankers offer in IPOs, requiring that we rethink this process.

The Dilution of Banking Services

In the last section, in the process of defending the banker presence in the IPO process, I listed a series of services that bankers offer. Given how much the investing world, both private and public, has changed in the last few decades, I will revisit those services and look at how they have changed as well:

  1. No timing skills: To be honest, no one can really time the market, though some bankers have been able to smooth talk issuing companies into believing that they can. For the most part, bankers have been able to get away with the timing claims, but when momentum shifts, as it seems to have abruptly in the last few months in the IPO market, it is quite clear that none of the bankers saw this coming earlier in the year.

  2. Boilerplate prospectuses: When I wrote my post on the IPO lessons from WeWork, Uber and Peloton (NASDAQ:PTON), I noted that these three very different companies seem to have the same prospectus writers, with much of the same language being used in the risk sections and business sections. While the reasons for following a standardized prospectus model might be legal, the need for banking help goes away if the process is mechanical.

  3. Mangled Pricing: This should be the strong point for bankers, since their capacity to gauge demand (by talking to investors) and influence supply (by guiding companies on offering size) should give them a leg up on the market, when pricing companies. Unfortunately, this is where banking skills seem to be have deteriorated the most. The most devastating aspect of the WeWork IPO was how out of touch the bankers for the company were in their pricing:



    Source: Financial Times

    I would explain this pricing disconnect with three reasons. The first is that bankers are mispricing these companies, using the wrong metrics and a peer group that does not quite fit, not surprising given how unique each of these companies claims to be. The second is that the bankers are testing out prices with a very biased subset of investors, who may confirm the mistaken pricing. The third and perhaps most likely explanation is that the desire to keep issuing companies happy and deals flowing is leading bankers to set prices first and then seek out investors at those prices, a dangerous abdication of pricing responsibility.

  4. Ineffective Selling/Marketing: When issuing companies were unknown to the market and bankers were viewed as market experts, the fact that a Goldman Sachs or a JPMorgan Chase was backing a public offering was viewed as a sign that the company had been vetted and had passed the test, the equivalent of a Good Housekeeping seal of approval for the company, from investors’ perspective. In today’s markets, there have been two big changes. The first is that issuing companies, through their product or service offerings, often have a higher profile than many of the investment banks taking them public. I am sure that more people had heard about and used Uber, at the time of its public offering, than were aware of what Morgan Stanley, its lead bank, does. The second is that the 2008 banking crisis has damaged the reputation of bankers as arbiters of investment truths, and investors have become more skeptical about their stock pitches. All in all, it is likely that fewer and fewer investors are basing their investment decision on banking road shows and marketing.

  5. Empty guarantee: Going back to Bill Gurley’s point about IPOs being underpriced, my concern with the banking IPO model is that the under pricing essentially dilutes the underwriting guarantee. Using an analogy, how much would you be willing to pay a realtor to sell a house at a guaranteed price, if that price is set 20% below what other houses in the neighborhood have been selling for?

  6. What after-market support? In the earlier section, I noted that banks can provide after-issuance support for the stocks of companies going public, both explicitly and implicitly. On both counts, bankers are on weaker ground with the companies going public today, as opposed to two decades ago. First, buying shares in the after-market to keep the stock price from falling may be a plausible, perhaps even probable, if the issuing company is priced at $500 million, but becomes more difficult to do for a $20 billion company, because banks don’t have the capital to be able to pull it off. Second, the same loss of faith that has corroded the trust in bank selling has also undercut the effectiveness of investment banks in hyping IPOs with glowing equity research reports.

Summing up, even if you believed that bankers provided services that justified the payment of sizable issuance costs in the past, I think that you would also agree that these services have become less valuable over time, and the prices paid for these services have to shrink and be renegotiated, and in some cases, entirely dispensed with.

Why change has been slow

Many of the changes that I highlighted in the last section have been years in the making, and the question then becomes why so few companies have chosen to go the direct listing route. There are, I believe, three reasons why the status quo has held on and that direct listings have no become more common.

  1. Inertia: The strongest force in explaining much of what we see companies do in terms of investment, dividend and financing is inertia, where firms stick with what’s been done in the past, partly because of laziness and partly because it is the safest path to take.

  2. Fear: Unfounded or not, there is the fear that shunning bankers may lead to consequences, ranging from negative recommendations from equity research analysts to bankers actively talking investors out of buying the stock, that can affect stock prices in the offering and in the periods after.

  3. The Blame Game: One of the reasons that companies are so quick to use bankers and consultants to answer questions or take actions that they should be ready to do on their own is that it allows managers and decisions makers to pass the buck, if something goes wrong. Thus, when an IPO does not go well, and Uber and Peloton are examples, managers can always blame the banks for the problems, rather than take responsibility.

I do think that at least for the moment, there is an opening for change, but that opening can close very quickly if a direct listing goes bad and a CFO gets fired for mismanaging it.

The End Game

As the process of going public changes, everyone involved in this process from issuing companies to public market investors to bankers will have to rethink how they behave, since the old ways will no longer work.

Issuing companies (going public)

  1. Choose the IPO path that is right for you: Given your characteristics as a company, you have to choose the pathway, i.e., banker-led or direct listing that is right for you. Specifically, if you are a company with a higher pricing (in the billions rather than the millions), with a public profile (investors already know what you do) and no instantaneous need for cash, you should do a direct listing. If you are a smaller company and feel that you can still benefit from even the diminished services that bankers offer, you should stay with the conventional IPO listing route.

  2. If you choose a banker, remember that your interests will not align with those of the bankers, be real about what bankers can do for you and negotiate for the best possible fee, and try to tie that feee to the quality of pricing. If I were Zoom’s CFO, I would have demanded that the banks that underpriced my company by 80% return their fees to me, not celebrated their role in the IPO process.

  3. If you choose the direct listing path, recognize that the public market may not agree with you on what you think your company is worth, and not only should you accept that difference and move on, you should recognize that this disagreement will be part of your public market existence for your listing life.

  4. In either case, you should work on a narrative for your company that meets the 3P test, i.e., is it possible? plausible? probable? You are selling a story, but you will also have to deliver on that story, and overreaching on your initial public offering story will only make it more difficult for you to match expectations in the future.

Investors

  1. Choose your game: In my last post, I noted that there are two games that you can play, the value game, where you value companies and trade on the difference, waiting for the price to converge on value and the pricing game, where you buy at a low price and hope to sell at a higher one. There is nothing inherently more noble about either game, but you should decide what game you came to play and be consistent with that choice. In short, if you are a trader, stop pondering the fundamentals and using discounted cash flow models, since they will be of little help in winning, and if you are an investor, don’t let momentum become a key ingredient of your value estimate.

  2. Keep the feedback loop open: Both investors and traders often get locked into positions on IPOs and are loath to revisit their original theses, mostly because they do not want to admit mistakes. With IPOs, where change is the only constant, you have to be willing to listen to people who disagree with you and change your views, if the facts merit that change.

  3. Spread your bets: The old value investing advice of finding a few good investments and concentrating your portfolio in them can be catastrophic with IPOs. No matter how carefully you do your homework, some of the investments that you make in young companies will blow up, and if your portfolio succeeds, it will be because a few big winners carried it.

  4. Stop whining about bankers, VCs and founders: Many public market investors seem to believe that there is a conspiracy afoot to defraud them, and that bankers, founders and VCs are all part of that conspiracy. If you lose money on an IPO, the truth is that it may not be your or their faults, but the consequence of circumstances out of anyone’s control. In the same vein, when you make money on an IPO, recognize that it has much to do with luck as with your stock picking skills.

Bankers

  1. Get real about what you bring to the IPO table: As I noted before, public and private market changes have put a dent on the edge that bankers had in the IPO game. It behooves bankers then to understand which of the many services that they used to charge for in the old days still provide added value today and to set fees that reflect that value added. This will require revisiting practices that are taken as given, including the 6-7% underwriting fee and the notion that the offer price should be set about 15% below what you think the fair prices should be.

  2. Speak your mind: If one of the reasons that the IPOs this year have struggled has been a widening gap between the private and public markets, bankers can play a useful role in private companies by not only pointing to and explaining the gap, but also in pushing back against private company proposals that they believe will make the divergence worse.

  3. Get out of the echo chamber: An increasing number of banks have conceded the IPO market to their West Coast teams, often based in Silicon Valley or San Francisco. These teams are staffed with members who are bankers in name, but entirely Silicon Valley in spirit. It is natural that if you rub shoulders with venture capitalists and founders all day that you relate more to them than to public market investors. I am not suggesting that banks close their West Coast offices, but they need to start putting some distance between their employees and the tech world, partly to regain some of their objectivity.

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Editor’s Note: The summary bullets for this article were chosen by Seeking Alpha editors.


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IRCTC High: Sluggishness in the IPO market is unlikely to end soon

The initial share sales by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) brought an early Diwali to Dalal Street, with the monopoly railroad travel service provider’s mid-October listing turning out to be the second best since 2005 and a closing debut eclipsing records dating back to a period before the subprime crisis.

In its blockbuster market debut, IRCTC’s stock listed at Rs 644 on BSE and Rs 626 on NSE against the issue price of Rs 320. The stock closed 127.69% higher than its issue price at Rs 728.60 on BSE and 129% higher on NSE.

1

At first glance, it may appear that initial public offerings (IPOs) are back in favour, but several other points suggest that the current period of weakness in the IPO market is unlikely to end soon. Analysts say the availability of several quality stocks at much cheaper valuations in the secondary market has led promoters and private equity funds to postpone plans to list shares. But quality companies such as IRCTC, offering shares at the right price point, would find good demand.

“A number of quality stocks are available at cheaper valuations in the secondary markets, giving investors enough ideas,” says Gopal Agrawal, co-head, investment banking, Edelweiss Financial Services. “Subdued valuation has also led a lot of companies to defer their IPO plans.” Fund raising through IPOs in 2019 will likely be the lowest since 2014. This year, 14 companies have raised about Rs 11,300 crore so far, compared with Rs 31,000 crore by 24 companies in 2018. In 2017, 36 companies raised a record Rs 67,150 crore.

“I don’t think the IPO market will see a flurry of issues in the near term because of IRCTC’s success, which is a one-off case,” says V Jayashankar, head of Kotak Investment Banking. “However, quality companies that have got their pricing correct have seen decent investor traction in the past, such as Affle (India), IndiaMART InterMESH and Metropolis. That trend will continue.”

2-second

Nipun Goel, head of investment banking at IIFL, says a lot of volatility in the market, driven by a raft of local and global factors, has affected IPOs. The other two avenues of fund raising – infrastructure investment trusts (InvITs) and real estate investment trusts (REITs) have yet to take off in the Indian markets. Only five InvITs have raised about Rs 3,258 crore in the last three years, and just one REIT was able to raise Rs 3,874 crore so far.

So Far, So Good

Almost all IPOs launched in 2019, except MSTC and Sterling & Wilson Solar, have given handsome returns. IRCTC and IndiaMART InterMESH stock prices have doubled, while others have given 12-80% returns. The Affle (India) stock has rallied 57% over its offer price since August, while Metropolis that listed in April has given a return of 45%. However, of the 57 IPOs launched in 2017 and 2018, 35 are currently trading below their offer prices. “With roughly 50% of the IPOs launched in 2018 giving negative returns, tighter IPO pricing is key for successful IPO closures in the current environment,” says Agrawal. Only a dozen draft red herring prospectuses (DRHP) were filed with the market regulator Sebi in 2019, compared with 90 in 2018. Currently, 33 companies have received the regulatory nod to raise about Rs 30,000 crore, and approvals for those plans are still valid. Bajaj Energy, PNB Metlife India Insurance, Shriram Properties, AGS Transact Technologies, Sansera Engineering and Emami Cement are among the bigger companies likely to hit the primary market in the next six months. Several companies that have got Sebi approval for IPOs are in a wait-andwatch mode, given the volatility in the secondary market.

3

IPO financing was a factor in the 2015-18 hype in the stock market. Several issues saw huge oversubscription. With 10 IPOs, launched in 2018, having opened flat to negative, demand for IPO financing is subdued of late. This, coupled with liquidity issues, has led to non-banking financial companies not providing adequate IPO financing. Most bankers expect only select IPOs and private placements. Also, investors are waiting for the secondary market to find the bottom before escalating their commitments to the primary market. “News from domestic industry and global trade continues to be challenging and will limit any meaningful fund raising,” says Ravi Sardana, executive vicepresident, ICICI Securities. “Many issuers will look to refile their offer documents with revised issue sizes and wait to launch when there is an improvement in the market sentiment.”

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Cabaletta Bio Aims For $87 Million IPO

Quick Take

Cabaletta Bio (CABA) has filed to raise $87 million in an IPO of its common stock, according to an S-1/A registration statement.

The firm is developing drug treatments for Pemphigus and other autoimmune conditions.

CABA is an ultra-high-risk pre-Phase 1 stage biopharma, and the IPO is likely more suited for very long-term hold institutional investors.

Company & Technology

Philadelphia-based Cabaletta was founded to advance treatments for various autoimmune diseases.

Management is headed by President and Chief Executive Officer Steven Nichtberger, M.D., who has been with the firm since inception and is also an adjunct professor at The Wharton School and is Chairman of the Board at ControlRad.

CABA’s lead program is DSG3-CAART, a CAAR T-based candidate for the treatment of mucosal pemphigus vulgaris, an autoimmune skin blistering disease.

Below is the current status of the company’s drug development pipeline:



Source: Company registration statement

Investors in the firm include 5AM Ventures, Adage Capital Partners, Baker Bros. Advisors, Boxer Capital, and Deerfield Management.

Market & Competition

According to a 2019 market research report by MedGadget, the market size for the treatment of pemphigus vulgaris is expected to reach $680 million by 2027.

This represents a forecast compound annual growth rate [CAGR] of 8% during the period of 2018 to 2027.

Below is a graphic indicating various aspects of the pemphigus vulgaris market:



Key elements driving this expected growth include continued development of diagnostics, treatment options, and growth in healthcare infrastructure.

Major competitive vendors that provide or are developing treatments include:

Management says it believes it is the ‘first and only company developing CAAR T Drug candidates for the treatment of B cell-mediated autoimmune diseases.’

Financial Status

CABA’s recent financial results are typical of clinical-stage biopharma firms and feature no revenue and significant R&D and G&A expenses associated with its development efforts.

Below are the company’s financial results for the past two and half years (Audited PCAOB for full years):



Source: Company registration statement

As of June 30, 2019, the company had $75.3 million in cash and $1.9 million in total liabilities. (Unaudited, interim)

IPO Details

CABA intends to sell 5.8 million shares of common stock at a midpoint price of $15.00 per share to raise $87 million in gross proceeds from an IPO.

No existing shareholders have indicated an interest to purchase shares at the IPO price. Since it is typical for there to be some degree of investor ‘support’ for the IPO, the absence of this element is a negative signal to prospective IPO investors.

Assuming a successful IPO, the company’s enterprise value at IPO would approximate $263 million, excluding the effects of underwriter over-allotment options.

Management says it will use the net proceeds from the IPO as follows:

approximately $30.0 million for the advancement of DSG3-CAART, our lead product candidate, through completion of Phase A Dose Escalation of our planned Phase 1 clinical trial;

approximately $45.0 million for the discovery and preclinical advancement of our other product candidates;

approximately $25.0 million for expenses associated with research and development personnel;

approximately $15.0 million for technology transfer to contract development and manufacturing organizations and to advance plans to build our own manufacturing facility, pending receipt of clinical data; and

the remainder, if any, to fund working capital and other general corporate purposes.

Management’s presentation of the company roadshow is available here.

Listed bookrunners of the IPO are Morgan Stanley, Cowen, and Evercore ISI.

Commentary

CABA is seeking public funding to begin Phase 1 trials for its lead candidate.

Therefore, we don’t have any data indicative of the safety of its lead drug.

The market opportunity for the treatment of pemphigus vulgaris is relatively small and forecast to grow at a moderate level.

The firm has no commercial collaborations but does have a significant research collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania.

As to valuation, the proposed enterprise value of the firm is at the lower end of the typical range for biopharma firms, so is not unreasonable per se.

However, given that the firm has yet to enter Phase 1 safety trials, CABA is still at a very early stage and is an ultra-high-risk biopharma firm.

Expected IPO Pricing Date: October 24, 2019.

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Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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Aikucun Supports Female Small Business Owners and Women’s Empowerment


Aikucun Supports Female Small Business Owners and Women’s Empowerment – World News Report – EIN News

























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Aramco puts off IPO again as $2 trillion valuation doubted  

The postponement, by at least a few weeks, will allow the array of Wall Street bankers advising Aramco to incorporate third-quarter results into their pre-IPO assessments of the company, according to people briefed on the situation.

The banks are still struggling to meet the valuation the company is seeking, according to one source.

Aramco, which pumps about 10pc of the world’s crude oil, said in a statement that the timing of the IPO will depend on market conditions and that it continues to engage with shareholders on activities related to the listing.

The sudden delay disrupts the carefully choreographed plan to launch the share sale on October 20, followed a week later by intense promotion during the country’s big investment forum – dubbed Davos in the Desert – and ending with an IPO in late November. A listing is now unlikely before December or perhaps January.

Last year, Aramco delayed the IPO after more than two years of preparations as international investors balked at the crown prince’s valuation.

This time Saudi Arabia opted for an easier route, deciding to start with a local listing only in Riyadh – ditching plans for a sale in London or New York – and enlisting local banks and wealthy families to support the IPO.

The Saudi government had seemed determined to press on with an accelerated schedule even in the face of potential headwinds: weak oil prices, a slowing world economy and last month’s attack on the company’s biggest processing plant.

While details of the proposed offer haven’t been made public, people involved in the transaction said earlier this month that about 2pc of Aramco might be sold, raising $40bn and exceeding the $25bn raised in 2014 by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.

Since the IPO was first mooted in 2016 Aramco’s valuation has been contentious, with analysts suggesting $1.5 trillion as a more realistic figure.

For the more than two dozen advisers working on the share sale, however, it is set to be a fees bonanza – the oil giant will be handing over $350m to $450m for their services.

Bloomberg

Irish Independent

Source: Ipo Search Results
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After string of capital raises, acquisitions and a new HQ, Conga drums up talk of an IPO

BROOMFIELD  — After a summer where public Boulder Valley companies moved off the markets, software maker Conga is making noise of a possible initial public offering after establishing a new headquarters in Broomfield.

Conga, the trade name for AppExtremes Inc., is on pace to make upward of $110 million this year, Chief Financial Officer Bob Pinkerton told BizWest. That’s about a 25 percent growth in revenue from last year’s $84.3 million, according to Inc. 5000 statistics.

The company develops a cloud software suite that manages documents across businesses, creates document templates and electronic signatures.

He made no effort to hide the company’s interest in going public over the next several years, potentially pitting it against DocuSign Inc. (NASDAQ: DOCU) in the battle for streamlining document workflow.

New digs caps years of funding and dealmaking

Conga was founded in 2006 by Mark Whiteside and Michael Markham and grew to about 40 or 50 employees. In 2015, the New York-based venture and private equity firm Insight Venture Partners LP took a $70 million stake in the company and recruited former DocuSign CEO Matthew Schlitz to take the company helm.

Three years later, Conga went on a buying spree.

Within a single-month period in 2018, it acquired Indianapolis-based Octiv Inc., Des Moines, Iowa-based Orchestrate LLC and New York-based Counselytics, and took a $47 million cash infusion from Insight and cloud software maker Salesforce Inc. (NYSE: CRM).

Today, the company is putting the final touches on parts of its 88,000-square-foot building at 13699 Via Varra, featuring a gym, bike shop and an in-house kitchen that Pinkerton said cost into the seven figures. About 300 of the company’s 650 or so employees are based out of the office, and the company plans to hire 300 more over the next two to five years in sales and engineering roles.

It also breached $100 million in revenue as of late August, with more than 1 million licenses among 11,000 customers.

Boulder Valley’s next IPO?

Conga’s consideration of going public comes after a summer of mergers and acquisitions activity put several major Front Range companies off the markets, ranging from micro-caps to the far end of the mid-cap range.

Danish power company Danfoss A/S snatched up Longmont’s UQM Technologies Inc. for $100 million in August, while Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) bought Boulder oncology company Array Biopharma for $11 billion in July.

Boulder internet infrastructure company Zayo Group Holdings Inc. (NYSE: ZAYO) is also on its way off the market next year after agreeing to sell itself to two private investment firms for $14.3 billion.

Pinkerton, who was brought in from Denver-based ServiceSource Inc. (NASDAQ:SREV), said an IPO announcement isn’t imminent. But those discussions are part of a slew of options the company is continuing as it looks toward sustaining the revenue growth it’s captured and maintain it through three to four years.

“As we continue this growth trajectory, it’s very possible an IPO is in our future,” he said.

Grow by the Salesforce, die by the Salesforce?

Conga started off as an add-on app in the Salesforce app store, and the San Francisco-based customer management giant is just as vital in the company’s success today as it was when Conga debuted. Approximately 70 to 75 percent of Conga customers use the company’s products through Salesforce.

“Our DNA is really in Salesforce,” Pinkerton said.

While Pinkerton believes the company has room to grow its customer base within the Salesforce ecosystem, he said Conga is trying to add products that’ll draw customers from outside that platform.

Steve Koenig, an analyst covering Salesforce and other enterprise software companies for Wedbush Securities, told BizWest that Conga’s reliance on Salesforce is a logical strategy because they make for natural partners.

The biggest downside risk would come if Salesforce decided to make its own product suite to compete against Conga, or if it bought a competitor. He posited that Conga could become an acquisition target itself. But even then, Koenig said a disruption in the Conga-Salesforce relationship wouldn’t necessarily derail Conga.

“If they get 100 percent of the business from Salesforce and that’s its only lead generation mechanism, that would be bad,” he said.

As for potential growth, Koenig believes Conga has a high ceiling because its document creation and tracking products are more problem-specific compared to offerings from Microsoft Inc. (Nasdaq: MSFT) or other major competitors.

Setting the groundwork for scale

Pinkerton said the main challenge in the document transformation software segment is getting companies to adopt new systems of tracking documents and changes, both in physical paper and in how files are moved around intranets. The company’s biggest challenge itself, he said, is deciding how much of its newfound revenue to invest in its various businesses.

“I guess that would mean that the biggest hurdle in front of us is just getting in our own way,” he said.

Conga is also trying to find the staff it needs to grow by pitching itself to tech talent as an up-and-comer sandwiched between homegrown Denver companies like Ibotta Inc. and Slack Inc. NYSE: (WORK) and the satellite offices of tech behemoths like Google and Twitter Inc. (NYSE: TWTR) in Boulder.

“You can be part of leading and running the business,” he said. “We tend to attract the people who want something that’s a little earlier stage, who want something that’s high growth and that they can take a personal investment into.”

BROOMFIELD  — After a summer where public Boulder Valley companies moved off the markets, software maker Conga is making noise of a possible initial public offering after establishing a new headquarters in Broomfield.

Conga, the trade name for AppExtremes Inc., is on pace to make upward of $110 million this year, Chief Financial Officer Bob Pinkerton told BizWest. That’s about a 25 percent growth in revenue from last year’s $84.3 million, according to Inc. 5000 statistics.

The company develops a cloud software suite that manages documents across businesses, creates document templates and electronic signatures.

He made no effort to hide the company’s interest in going public over the next several years, potentially pitting it against DocuSign Inc. (NASDAQ: DOCU) in the battle for streamlining document workflow.

New digs caps years of funding and dealmaking

Conga was founded in 2006 by Mark Whiteside and Michael Markham and grew to about 40 or 50 employees. In 2015, the New York-based venture and private equity firm Insight Venture Partners LP took a $70 million stake in the company and recruited former DocuSign CEO Matthew Schlitz to take the company helm.

Three years later, Conga went on a buying spree.

Within a single-month period in 2018, it acquired Indianapolis-based Octiv Inc., Des Moines, Iowa-based Orchestrate LLC and New York-based Counselytics, and took a $47 million cash infusion from Insight and cloud software maker Salesforce Inc. (NYSE: CRM).

Today, the company is putting the final touches on parts of its 88,000-square-foot building at…


 



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The 2019 IPO Awards!

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2019 was supposed to be a banner year for IPOs. With splashy companies like Uber, Lyft, WeWork, Airbnb and Pinterest announcing plans to go public and start selling shares in 2019.

But things have not gone as planned in the IPO market. From high profile flops, to solid showings, to the IPOs that never happened, 2019 can officially be declared the year the unicorns all got a second look.

On today’s show, we award the highlights and lowlights of the 2019 IPO market.

Music by Drop Electric. Find us: Twitter / Facebook / Newsletter.

Subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts, PocketCasts and NPR One.

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Saudi Aramco Abruptly Postpones Initial Public Offering

Saudi Aramco abruptly postponed the launch of the world’s largest initial public offering by at least a few weeks, according to people briefed on the situation. This is the second delay in the planned listing.

The state-owned oil giant said in a statement that the timing of the IPO will depend on market conditions and that it continues to engage with shareholders on activities related to the listing.

The delay will give the array of Wall Street banks advising the Saudi state oil producer time to incorporate third-quarter results into their pre-IPO assessment valuations, said one of the people, who asked not to be named discussing confidential deliberations.

The banks are still struggling to meet the $2 trillion valuation the company is seeking, according to the person.

The sudden delay disrupts the carefully choreographed plan to launch the share sale on October 20th, followed a week later by intense promotion during the country’s big investment forum – dubbed Davos in the Desert – and ending with an IPO in late November. Now, a listing is unlikely before December or perhaps January.

Last year, Aramco delayed the IPO after more than two years of preparations as international investors balked at the $2 trillion valuation Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had put on the company.

This time Saudi Arabia opted for an easier route, deciding to start with a local listing only in Riyadh – ditching plans for a sale in London or New York – and enlisting local banks and wealthy families to support the IPO.

The Saudi government had seemed determined to press on with an accelerated schedule even in the face of potential headwinds that include weak oil prices, a slowing world economy and last month’s attack on the company’s biggest processing plant.

While details of the proposed offer haven’t been made public, people involved in the transaction said earlier this month that about 2 per cent of Aramco might be sold, raising $40 billion and easily exceeding the $25 billion raised in 2014 by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding.

Ever since the crown prince first mooted the IPO of the kingdom’s most prized assets in early 2016, Aramco’s valuation has been contentious. Many analysts have said that $2 trillion is too much compared with similar publicly traded companies.

Aramco may well be the world’s most valuable company, but based on the dividend yield received by investors in Exxon Mobil, the largest US oil company, its valuation would be closer to $1.5 trillion.

The September 14th attack on its oil facilities disrupted output and sent shock waves through energy markets, triggering the biggest one-day jump in Brent crude prices on record and stoking security concerns. Investors are already demanding a premium to hold the country’s debt, downgraded this month by Fitch Ratings.

While advisers had been working on an intention to announce float for October 20th, executives hadn’t given a firm timeline in public. Aramco chief executive officer Amin Nasser said last month that the IPO would happen “very soon”.

The IPO promises to be a fees bonanza for the more than two dozen advisers working on the share sale, with Aramco set to pay them $350 million to $450 million, people familiar with the matter said Wednesday.

The delay to the IPO’s launch was reported by the Financial Times earlier. – Bloomberg

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Aramco IPO Delay Shows Saudi Confidence

Yesterday came reports that the Saudi Aramco IPO is delayed again, perhaps a month or longer. Most news outlets indicate that the delay is due to an inability to set a valuation for the company, with Prince Mohammed apparently wanting the $2 trillion he mentioned more than three years ago while the banks and potential investors are looking at a number that might be closer to $1.2 trillion.

We don’t know how this will turn out. There are skeptics who have been saying all along that this IPO will never happen. Or maybe the Crown Prince and the Saudi government will capitulate to the banks’ demand for a lower valuation. But, to be clear, this delay is a smart move by the Saudi government. It shows confidence, not desperation.

The difference between an Aramco IPO and many other IPO’s is that neither the company nor the owner (the Saudi monarchy and government) needs this to happen—now or even in the future. The proceeds from the IPO will not go to Aramco, so whether it happens will not impact company strategy. At the same time, while the Prince and government may want the cash—potentially $100 billion dollars if the company sells enough shares at a high enough valuation—Saudi Arabia does not need the cash. Saudi Arabia does not actually face a cash crunch, despite claims by many, including the IMF. Saudi Arabia still has significant cash reserves, the ability to take debt, and the ability to make more government revenue out of taxes and rents. In short, Saudi Arabia can wait to do this IPO or decide to forego it all together.

Perhaps the biggest external pressure on the government to proceed with the IPO soon is a political one. The prince has been speaking about it for almost four years. The people of the country have become excited. At this point, the IPO is almost a promise to the people. But it can be delayed, even indefinitely. After all, there are no elections to face.

With the banks pushing for a much lower valuation, this delay is a way for Saudi Arabia to call their bluffs. Some of the banks may very well refuse to participate at a higher valuation. After all, many of them have faced repeated delays with this project before and the bankers themselves must be getting frustrated at the prospect of losing out on a big bonus at the end of the year. Some banks may just walk away even if it means losing future business in the kingdom, but other banks will happily stay on the project. Some banks are committed to this deal and to the prospect of future work in the kingdom. They do not want to walk away; they are more desperate than Saudi Arabia. It may be good for Saudi Arabia to jettison some of the less enthusiastic banks.

Many banks will give in and underwrite the higher valuation if Saudi leadership is willing to wait this out. Now, it is important that enough big banks remain that they can afford to underwrite a massive IPO. As of now, there are over 20 banks participating. Those banks are all splitting the fees, which are said to be as high as $450 million. But a select group of banks that split the same fees and are more enthusiastic could help the prince.

Ultimately, a high valuation may be proven wrong by the market with the share price dropping at the IPO or later. But a high valuation and IPO price would help make Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman look good politically and help the country raise a lot of cash even if the share price eventually settles much lower.

Equities watchers must understand: this is not WeWork or some other failed IPO. WeWork needs the cash to survive, as it is a money-losing business. And claims that the IPO is delayed again because Saudi Arabia is hiding the demise of its oil reserves are equally nonsensical. The reserves have been audited just as any other global reserves. No, this is a negotiation, and Saudi Arabia has the upper hand. After all, Saudi Arabia doesn’t need this.

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Saudi Aramco to delay initial public offering: source

NEW YORK: Saudi Aramco plans to push back its initial public offering, which had been expected to be launched next week, a person familiar with the situation said Thursday.

The move could delay stock market trading of the oil giant to December or January instead of November, the person said. The company is expected to be valued at between $1.5 and $2 trillion, making it the biggest ever.

Sources had told AFP in mid-September that the IPO could be pushed back after an attack on Saudi oil facilities curtailed output.

The IPO is part of Riyadh’s efforts under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to diversify its economy away from petroleum.

Aramco has envisioned a two-stage public listing, with about two percent of the capital trading on the Tadawul exchange in Saudi Arabia and an additional listing on a foreign exchange, sources say.

The company intends for about five percent of shares to be available on public exchanges.

The prospect of falling short of the $2 trillion valuation desired by Saudi rulers is widely considered the reason the IPO has been delayed.

A prior initiative to list Aramco was pulled last year due to disappointment over the valuation during a weak period for oil prices. -AFP

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