EY: Strong Q4 IPO Activity Demonstrates Resilience, Defies Expectations
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EY: Strong Q4 IPO Activity Demonstrates Resilience, Defies Expectations

2020 markets recovered to pre-pandemic levels, breaking new heights

EY: Strong Q4 IPO Activity Demonstrates Resilience, Defies Expectations

Despite the uncertainty of 2020, IPO investors enjoyed a prosperous year as IPO activity proved resilient to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic supported by low-interest rates and expansionary monetary policies. Global IPO volumes continued to accelerate, increasing by 19% to 1,363, while proceeds increased 29% year-on-year to a total of US$268b. This strong IPO performance indicates global equity markets continue to provide the platform for companies with access to public capital.

The Americas region saw the biggest year-on-year increase in both IPO volumes and proceeds, with 2020 IPO numbers increasing 30% to 282, and proceeds rising 78% to US$97.9b. Asia-Pacific also made significant gains recording a 20% increase in IPO volumes to 822 IPOs and 45% in proceeds to US$136.2b. In EMEIA, while IPO numbers rose 7% to 259 IPOs, proceeds fell 43% to US$33.9b. Overall, 2020 saw a steady increase in cross-border IPO volume, accounting for 7.9% of global IPOs and 10% by proceeds, compared with 8% and 7.1% in 2019 respectively.

The technology sector maintained its lead by both volume and proceeds finishing the year with 324 IPOs and US$89.1b respectively. By IPO number, industrials followed in second place with 243 IPOs and US$31.4b, and then health care with 235 IPOs and US $50.4b in proceeds. These and other findings were published today in the EY quarterly report, EY Global IPO Trends: Q4 2020.

Paul Go, EY Global IPO Leader, says: "2020 was full of surprises. Market volatility in the first half of the year was higher than any time since the global financial crisis. But volatility quickly subsided, with the year ending on the back of some stellar IPO market performances. Buoyant global IPO markets have demonstrated the resilience of equity markets despite the pandemic. Capital markets and IPOs allow high-growth companies to fund innovation, accelerate growth and make significant contributions to society.

Looking to the first half of 2021, continued fiscal stimulus, abundance of liquidity and optimism linked to COVID-19 vaccines should sustain IPO momentum. However, investors should beware of any potential market correction, especially for those companies that have seen their share prices make substantial gains from the market rally in 2020."

The Americas IPO market adapted for resilience in 2020

Americas IPO momentum remained positive in Q4 2020, finishing the year with 282 IPOs raising US$97.9b, a respective increase of 30% and 78% year-on-year. The health care sector remained strong with 40% of total deals taking place in the region, seeing 114 IPOs raise US$27.9b during 2020. The technology sector followed with 77 IPOs raising US$40.4b and industrials, which saw 19 IPOs raise US$8.0b in 2020.

US exchanges continued to flourish, accounting for 79% (224) of the region's IPOs in 2020 and 88% (US$86.2b) by proceeds. 2020 was also the most active year for Brazil by deal numbers (28) and proceeds (US$8.5b) since 2007 as low interest rates led investors to the market. While the US exchanges remained agile, special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) continue to emerge as a more mainstream path to the public markets for companies due to their speed and deal certainty.

Rachel Gerring, EY Americas IPO Leader, says: "Despite a volatile macroeconomic backdrop, 2020 has proven to be an exciting year in the IPO market, with an evolution in what has historically been a relatively standard model for companies to go public and with volumes not seen since 2014. We anticipate continued innovation of the traditional IPO, along with SPACs and direct listings, to better align with issuer objectives. The pipeline of companies looking to go public keeps building as stocks continue to perform and investor appetite remains strong."

Asia-Pacific markets remain strong in face of COVID-19 pandemic

Despite a challenging year, 2020 activity in the Asia-Pacific region surpassed 2019, increasing 20% (822) by volume and 45% (US$136.2b) by proceeds in 2020. In fact, the region saw the highest proceeds since 2010. Industrials led the sectors with 181 IPOs raising US$20.8b in proceeds, followed by technology with 180 IPOs and US$38.7b in proceeds, and materials, which saw 95 IPOs raising US$7.4b.

Greater China accounted for three of the top five exchanges globally. With investor sentiment remaining positive in Q4 2020, Greater China saw an acceleration in both IPO volumes and proceeds, garnering US$119.1b via 536 IPOs in total.

Japan's startup ecosystem continued to drive growth as well in Q4 2020, seeing a modest 4% (93) increase in IPOs and 13% (US$3.3b) decline in proceeds through 2020.

Ringo Choi, EY Asia-Pacific IPO Leader, says: "The COVID-19 pandemic was the overwhelmingly dominant event of 2020. Few thought people or economies would suffer this long. Yet, somehow, despite this crisis, the Asia-Pacific IPO market proved resilient. Looking ahead, IPO candidates will need to continue to take the necessary precautions to maintain their liquidity. That said, IPO companies, and new economy companies especially, have proven their importance to the economy and their ability to pivot, adapt and prosper in response to the pandemic."

EMEIA's IPO candidates took advantage of the open window of opportunity

EMEIA gained momentum in Q4 2020 despite the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping through the region. Through 2020, EMEIA saw 259 IPOs raise US$33.9b in proceeds, a 7% rise and 43% decline respectively.

In Europe, the market continued to pick up speed with 2020 total deal numbers increasing 23% and proceeds rising 9% year-on-year. The UK IPO market maintained its Q3 momentum with two mega IPOs in Q4, resulting in a 30% increase by deal numbers and 56% increase by proceeds year-on-year.

Dr. Martin Steinbach, EY EMEIA IPO Leader, says: "Despite the impact of the pandemic, EMEIA IPO markets proved resilient and adaptive. After a period of high volatility and unusual uncertainties, we saw a strong rebound of IPO activity in Q4 2020, resulting in higher 2020 IPO activity than 2019. With continued momentum, expected vaccine success, high valuation and lower volatility levels, everything is in place for a strong start to 2021. IPO candidates will need to demonstrate resilience and rise to the level of environmental, social and governance standards that investors are expecting."

Q1 2021 outlook: markets should sustain momentum

As COVID-19 vaccine availability keeps spirits high and companies take advantage of ample liquidity, global IPO markets should remain healthy and will likely sustain momentum going into H1 2021. From a geopolitical perspective, the agreed Brexit deal favors positive IPO market sentiments as agreements between the EU and the UK continue to take shape. While the window of opportunity remains open, IPO candidates should remain vigilant for proposed regulatory changes, a potential market correction stemming from increases in pricing volatility and the pace at which the world recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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