Record IPO Year, But Few Trends - TheStreet

Two words: Record year.

That's how to describe Wall Street in 1996, a year marked by record highs, record bonuses and a record number of initial public offerings.

A whopping 925 companies came to market in 1996, raking in $59.5 billion, according to

IPO Value Monitor

. That blasted through the previous record set in 1993, when 707 companies pulled in $41.4 billion.

Issuing companies, of course, weren't the only beneficiaries of the Pamplona-like IPO market.

Goldman, Sachs & Co

,

Morgan Stanley

(MS:NYSE) and

Merrill Lynch & Co.

(MER:NYSE) were the big winners, according to

Securities Data Company

. The three firms underwrote just shy of a third of this year's offerings.

IPOs benefited from the overall market's bull run. Winning issues rose much further than the worst performers fell. In fact, a total of 49 issues more than doubled in value since their launches, according to

CommScan

, which tracks performance of newly offered shares.

What theme linked the success stories? There wasn't one, analysts said.

"It was a really spectacular year" said

Steven Tuen

, an analyst at

IPO Value Monitor

. "But the companies that succeeded had to show pretty spectacular and consistent earnings growth."

The winners:

Cymer

(CYMI:Nasdaq), up 342%;

Outdoor Systems (OSIA:Nasdaq)

, up 297.5%;

Sykes Enterprises

(SYKE:Nasdaq), up 239.58%;

Paravant Computer Systems

(PVAT:Nasdaq), up 237.5%; and

Neopharm

(NEO:AMEX), up 200%.

It's not all good news; the year's worst performers truly tanked.

N-Vision

(NVSN:Nasdaq) was the worst, falling 88.75%. Others that failed to live up to promise included

Kaye Kotts Associates

, down 82%;

Thermo-mizer Environmental

(TMZ: Nasdaq), down 80%;

Riscorp (RISC:Nasdaq)

, down 80%; and

Reality Interactive

, down 78%.

To be sure, the IPO market has slowed as the last few pages of the 1996 calendar are torn off, with a number of expected issues suddenly rescheduled this month.

IPO Value Monitor

's Tuen cautions that could forebode the market's strength in 1997.

"I don't think we'll see the type of activity characterized by the explosive-like performance of this year," he said.

Coming later this week: An analysis of the fundamentals that drove the best (and worst) IPO performances in this trend-free year.

By Andrew Morse