2021 was a big year for IPOs. With almost 1,500 companies listing around the world, the number of IPOs nearly doubled in 2021 compared to the year before. The amount of capital raised surpassed $525 billion. Given that interest rates remained at ultra-low levels throughout the year, and that governments continued to pump trillions of dollars in cheap cash into the global markets, market valuations were pumped up to record levels. With cash-hungry startups also increasingly keen to list relatively early in their development, and the increasing prominence of SPACs, all in all it has been a fruitful environment for IPOs – and therefore for investment banks.
With some help from Refinitiv’s 2021 Investment Banking Scorecard, we have looked at the five biggest IPOs of 2021 and the performance of the associated investment banks.
The much-anticipated IPO of cryptoexchange Coinbase took place in April, and was by far the largest deal size of the year at $37.7 billion. The company did not receive any proceeds once trading started, however, as the company opted for a direct public offering (through which securities are sold without financial intermediaries). As we have covered subsequently, Coinbase shares have not performed strongly since the IPO. Q3 earnings came in below expectations (albeit still at 325.9% growth year on year) while, more worryingly, its number of users declined – at the same time as the number of crypto users globally have rocketed. Little wonder that it is trading well below its opening day price of $381 (at time of writing, shares stand at just over $250).
While a number of investment banks are involved in deals of this type, it was reported that Goldman Sachs had been chosen to lead the syndicate, which is responsible for generating demand for shares (and ensuring the company is valued at the right level). 2021 was indeed a strong year for Goldman Sachs, which took in over $37.5 billion from IPOs and over $11 billion from investment banking fees – second only to JP Morgan.
Roblox, the online video game platform, comes it at number two with a deal size of $13.8 billion. Interest in the platform soared during the pandemic, with global lockdowns meaning more people were pushed online – meaning the platform added millions of users. Investors also seem confident that Roblox is a unique form of video game experience, a result of the fact that users programme games themselves and play those created by others. It is a kind of game marketplace – and one reportedly used by other half of all children under 16 in the US. Despite making losses in the previous few years as a result of big investments in tech, the market seems to believe that Roblox could be part of the innovation of the future – hence its strong performance since listing.
Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan were chosen to lead the company’s listing on the New York Stock Exchange. These represent the top three investment banks by IPO proceeds: JP Morgan is first at just over $39 billion, then Goldman at roughly $37.5 billion, followed by Morgan Stanley at just under $35 billion. All were also in the top three in 2020 (though in a different order), and all have seen their market share increase – suggesting that we could be seeing the top three cement their positions as market leaders. Indeed, the three investment banks make a number of appearances in the top five deals of the year – and managed to complete around 200 each in total.
Money transfer firm Wise listed in London back in April, and achieved a strong initial valuation of £8 billion – rallying 10% on its first day alone. The company continued to grow strongly throughout 2021, with revenue growing by 33% to £256 million and gross profit growing by 46% to £174 million, at the same time as cutting fees for users. Despite these impressive numbers, the Wise share prices has struggled since its listing – dropping significantly in October after the company’s co-founder sold 10 million shares, and currently standing below its opening price at £7.69. Investors also may remain concerned that the established banks will take action to improve their foreign exchange offerings and thereby wipe out the need for services like Wise.
Goldman Sachs, Barclays and Morgan Stanley ran this deal. It is interesting to see Barclays alongside two of the ‘big three’, with 2021 having been a solid if unspectacular year for the UK bank. Refinitiv puts Barclays eighth for IPOs, and seventh for investment banking fees – with takings in this areas at just under $11 billion and just over $4 billion respectively. What must be worrying Barclays is that the top three are commanding an ever-greater share of the market, while their own share either flatlines or decreases. In IPO proceeds, Barclays’ share of the market grew just 0.7% – with JP Morgan growing at 4.6%, Goldman Sachs at 2.9% and Morgan Stanley at 3%. In fees, all the top three saw increases in market share, while Barclays saw no change at all. While Barclays remains comfortably in the top ten investment banks, the increasing gap between the top three and other leading banks, like Barclays, could be a cause for concern – with the gap only likely to widen further.
Electric carmaker Rivian IPO’d in November and, with the deal size standing at $11.9 billion, was the largest traditional (that is to say, not a direct listing) IPO in the US for over five years (the previous record belonged to Uber). The company’s shares have strengthened considerably in the couple of months since its launch, with Rivian’s market cap surpassing titans General Motors and Ford. Currently trading at $106.11, this represents about a 5% increase – which may appear modest, but is a much better performance than the IPOs of some other electric vehicle manufacturers (such as Lucid Motors). Given Rivian is in direct competition with giants like Tesla and XPeng, however, the company will have to post some impressive numbers in order to maintain this positive sentiment.
Goldman Sachs, Barclays, Morgan Stanley were the three banks leading this deal again. I wonder what it is about that combination?
While this company is probably unfamiliar to European or American readers, Beijing-based Kuaishou is a Chinese social media company that listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange back in February 2021. The deal size stood at $6.2 billion and, on the first day of trading, shares in the platform soared by nearly 200%. However, this rally was not too last. All of the platform’s come from China and it is therefore almost completely dependent on the Chinese economy and developments in Beijing. So when China’s regulatory crackdown began to rattle stock markets and the Hang Seng in the summer, there was nowhere for the company to hide. Opening trading at HK$300, shares have plummeted to HK$73.05.
Leading this deal were Bank of America, China Renaissance and Morgan Stanley. It is interesting that Kuaishou opted for two American banks for a wholly Chinese company listing in Hong Kong, in what is clearly an attempt to drum up American and international interest for a domestic Chinese platform. Fan Bao’s China Renaissance does not make it into Refinitiv’s Scorecard (the only Chinese bank to appear is CITIC, which posted decent takings for IPOs), but Bank of America has had an interesting year. It ranks fourth for IPO proceeds (taking in $18.7 billion) but is considerably behind third-placed Morgan Stanley. It is also fourth for investment banking fees, at $8.3 billion. While the gap is smaller here, BoA’s market share declined while the top three also posted advances. Like Barclays, BoA is surely concerned that the top three and pulling away and it will become harder for them to remain competitive with JP Morgan, Goldman and Morgan Stanley.
It will take some doing for 2022 to beat 2021 in terms of listings and IPO revenues. That said, there are some major listings in the offing for this year – not least Reddit, Instacart and Stripe, “the unicorn of all unicorns.” Let’s see how they, and the investment banks involved, fare in the year ahead.
Author: Harry Clynch
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