(Updated with additional information on more pending IPOs, including several international offerings.)AUSTIN, Texas ( TheStreet) -- The newly revived IPO hype is causing a stir in the market, but one possible blockbuster deal could be a landmark for the weak economy. According to Hoover's IPO Scorecard, which was released Monday, the number of initial public offerings soared 240% in the third quarter compared to the same period last year. That represents the first triple-digit gain since 2004. During the quarter, 17 companies went public on one of the major U.S. stock exchanges, raising $5.5 billion in the process. By comparison, in the third quarter of 2008 just five companies went public, raising $917 million. Shanda Games ( GAME), Banco Santander ( STD) and A123 Systems ( AONE) are just some of that names that began appearing on the big boards. A123, a maker of lithium-ion car batteries, has soared more than 30% since its Sept. 24 IPO. "We saw some good-grade companies that are middle of the road and ready to go public," Tim Walker, Hoover's industry expert and the author of Business Insight Zone, says. "We didn't see speculative offerings or blockbuster offerings. It was mostly well-run companies that were able to come to the market with some cadence, which is a healthy sign." On Friday alone, Education Management ( EDMC) and Echo Global Logistics ( ECHO) debuted on the Nasdaq. This week, data firm Verisk Analytics plans to offer 85.25 million shares at $19 to $21 a share in a bid to raise about $1.7 billion. Verisk plans to be listed on Nasdaq under the symbol VRSK. Also on the sidelines to go forward with their IPOs are JBS USA, Hyatt Hotels and Cobalt International Energy. The sudden uptick in initial public offerings is also occuring overseas. On Monday, CapitalLand, Southeast Asia's largest developer, said it will list 20% to 30% of its shopping-mall arm in a Singapore IPO that sources said could raise at least $1 billion. And there's little doubt that more names will join the list in the fourth quarter, as the economy continues to stabilize. "The outlook for the end of this year and the beginning of 2010 is a good one when we consider that the third quarter of 2009 beat the previous four quarters combined, both in the number of IPO filings -- more than 30 -- and their average value -- around $400 million," Walker says.
Internet retailer Newegg plans an initial public offering of stock worth up to $175 million, and teen apparel retailer Rue21 is looking to raise $125 million in its IPO. "Both of these fit a niche and have proven track records," Walker says. "I think we will see more companies like these making offerings. They don't need to convince potential investors of their stories, it's more about future performance." Dollar General filed a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission in September for the offering of its common stock for up to $750 million. The discounter plans to list on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "DG." "This is one of the more stable offerings," Walker says. "The timing is right for the discounter as consumers trade down for basics. It's also one of the bigger names in the space." There are also strong reports that General Electric ( GE) is looking to take its NBC Universal unit public. "Any time you get a household name not already trading, people eat it up," Walker says. "This one could be a landmark deal, but what do we really know about the landscape under the company? I don't feel as certain it will be a slam dunk as I would have three years ago." According to a report released earlier this year by Renaissance Capital, Dunkin' Donuts is another name rumored to be in the IPO pipeline. But the mothership of all deals could be one from Toys 'R' Us. "It's not formally on the charts, but there have been murmurs of a Toys 'R' Us offering," Walter says.
The toy store was taken private in 2005 after more than a quarter of a century as a public company. It currently has about $13 billion in revenue. Toys 'R' Us has the prospect of potentially the first good holiday for retailers in several years riding in its favor. To gear up for the season, the company is hiring more than 30,000 seasonal staffers and opening temporary pop-up stores just for the occasion. "Toys 'R' Us hasn't filed yet," Walker says, "But if they have a big holiday season, it could make it a very attractive, very big offering." A Toys 'R' Us spokesperson said the company is intensely focused on the holiday season, but would not comment on a possible IPO. -- Reported by Jeanine Poggi in New York Follow TheStreet.com on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.