Skip to main content

As the stock market swoons from the summer heat and speculation of a potential Federal Reserve rate hike, many market analysts are wondering if this year will serve up a repeat of last year's market action. But so far there are no signs that the IPO pipeline is drying up.

Last summer, both the

Dow Jones Industrial Average


Nasdaq Composite Index

were listless in July before declining sharply in August. The impact on the IPO market was severe. In June 1998, 59 companies went public, and another 46 companies headed out in July. But as market weakness became more pronounced, the IPO tap dried up and only 19 companies ventured out in August. Autumn was brutal: Three companies went out in September, raising a measly $81.1 million, and another six went out in October.

This year, despite market jitters of the past few months, there have been no signs that the IPO flow is slowing down. In fact, it's speeding up. Last week a record-breaking 24 companies went public -- a number that hasn't been seen since the week of Nov. 21, 1997. In July, 64 companies headed out of the gate.

On the average, it seems Internet IPOs have done well this year -- jumping as much as 91% on their first day of trading and seeing an average increase of 56% on their first-day close, according to

Thomson Financial Securities Data


But the spectacular gains made by these companies are quickly surrendered. There is much weakness among new issues. Even stocks that had big debuts aren't seeing stellar follow-through. Last month,


had an impressive debut on July 20, when it reached a high of 105, well above its 28 offering price. The stock is now trading at 39 5/8.



, the online business information directory, opened the same day at 14 and shot up to 33 but is now trading at 13 1/4.

Tech-stock IPOs are giving up their gains too quickly, which could be a sign that the bloom really is off the Internet rose. "Part of the romance on the way up is you don't know what they're worth," says Scott Sipprelle of

Midtown Research

in New York. "But part of the terror on the way down is that you don't know what they're worth."

Raising Greenbacks
IPO proceeds, excluding closed-end funds

Source: Thomson Financial Securities Data

But so far there are no signs that any IPOs are being canceled. "Right now mum's the word," says

Renaissance Capital

analyst Randall Roth. "No one's going to say they're going to pull, but it's kind of unusual that we've been getting as many deals out as we have."

If anything, nervousness about further market weakness is speeding up companies' attempts to go public. In May, 80 companies filed to go public, the highest number of filings this year, 79 companies filed in July. "A lot of people know that summer usually has some type off fall off on the market, so you might as well get out as fast as you can," says

Edgar Online

analyst Tom Taulli.

IPO Tally
Number of IPO issues, excluding closed-end funds

Source: Thomson Financial Securities Data

Dozens of companies are lining up to taste the public markets this week -- possibly as many as 20, including heavy-hitters like




And more are slated for the weeks to come. Richard Peterson, market strategist for Securities Data, expects 66 deals to be priced in August and a staggering 100 in September -- a close second to the record output of October 1996, when 108 IPOs were issued. What results is a glut of new companies among which few stand out. Aside from highly anticipated IPOs like

Red Hat

(RHAT:Nasdaq), the company that makes the open-source Linux operating system, more analysts are expecting mediocre offerings, like

, an online real estate site with growing losses and a lawsuit brought against it by one of its strategic partners.

Still, for young companies, "It's easier to go public now than when they become more seasoned," says Renaissance Capital's Roth. "Investors haven't really sorted out the winners from the losers yet."

Let's hope there aren't too many losers.