Groupon's IPO a Game Changer (Update 1)

Story updated with Groupon's closing price.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- It's time for investors to get real about IPO's after Groupon ( GRPN) launched its shares into the market. The fact is the majority of IPOs have significantly underperformed the markets in the last year, with only a few keeping the momentum.

For those dabbling in IPOs, it's clearly always been a stock picker's game. Even so, the game may be changing in the favor of companies like Groupon.

Every time a company lists on stock exchanges and pops in its first day of trading, it's hard to escape the excitement. For example, Groupon sold nearly 5% of the company and its first day of trading sent shares to $26.11 -- more than 30% above its $20 a share offer price.

But while the S&P 500 is up nearly 2% and Dow Jones Industrial Average is up nearly 4% in the last year, the 193 total IPO issues done in that time have fallen an average of 9.3% according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Some of those IPOs like LinkedIn ( LNKD), which has nearly doubled, and Dunkin' Brands ( DNKN) are providing outsized gains, while others like Renen ( RENN), Vanguard Health ( VHS) and Freescale Semiconductor ( FSL) are down at least 30%.

In the last year, the five biggest IPOs came from private equity portfolios excluding the U.S. Treasury's sale of General Motors ( GM) stock between January and May and at sizes over $1 billion.

Recent months show, private equity's billion dollar share sales are over for now and even share sales half that size like Dunkin' Brands ( DNKN) July offering are rare in today's market. While there are still giant companies in private equity coffers, this summer and fall signal that it's companies like Groupon, LinkedIn and Zynga going public for the first time ever, which are driving the still slow IPO market.

For investors looking at upcoming stock issues, it may mean that the market's turn from a private equity focus is a chance to start over.

Friday, KKR ( KKR), one of the world's largest private equity firms reported its largest quarterly loss ever -- an earnings announcement that followed Blackstone's ( BX) October quarterly loss. Falling public market values of recently IPO'ed companies like HCA ( HCA), Kinder Morgan ( KMI), Freescale and Kosmos Energy ( KOS) were a hit to private equity earnings, even as firms drew in investor money and increased fee earnings in the quarter. KKR wrote the value of its overall investments by 8.5%, led by recently IPO'ed companies like HCA and NXP Semiconductors ( NXP) summer-to-fall stock declines.

At KKR, its private equity investments represent 44.3% of roughly $4.9 billion in overall investments as of the quarter ended in September. Among those private equity investments, the biggest percentage gainers to KKR's acquisition costs are Dollar General ( DG), HCA and Nielsen ( NLSN) - all companies that have been taken public in the past year. Meanwhile, blockbuster leveraged-buyout deals like First Data, TXU and U.S. Foodservice have been marked down significantly from cost and are still privately held. It's a potential signal that while some private equity IPOs have fared well and others have faltered, new investors in an offering don't have the same profit and loss as private equity sellers.

For investors now looking at non-private equity owned IPO's, the tide back to companies going public for the first time ever may be a relief. Management and employees in first-time IPO's will be marking their net worth at the same stock prices as investors calibrating their investment profit and loss.

-- Written by Antoine Gara in New York

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