What is an IPO and how does it work?

For most traders and investors, an initial public offering (IPO) is the first opportunity to gain exposure to a company’s shares. Learn more about the IPO process and how to trade a listing with IG.

Call 1800 601 799 or email helpdesk.au@ig.com to talk about opening a trading account. We’re here 24hrs a day, except from 7am to 1pm Saturdays (AEST)

Contact us: 1800 601 799

What is an initial public offering (IPO)?

An initial public offering (IPO) is the first sale of stock issued by a company. In other words, it’s when a business decides to start selling its shares to the public. The company will decide how many shares it wants to offer, and an investment bank will suggest an initial price for the stocks based on the predicted demand for them.

Why do companies want to go public?

Companies want to go public for different reasons, depending on their circumstances. Most are looking to raise capital to fund expansion, pay debts, attract and retain talent, or monetise assets. A company may also want to list on a stock exchange to improve its public profile.

Alternatives to IPOs

An IPO is not the only way for a business to get access to the public market. Other options include direct listings, reverse takeovers and Dutch auctions.

  • Direct listing
  • Reverse takeover
  • Dutch auction

Direct listing

A direct listing enables a company to list on a stock exchange without an underwriter. They occur when a business decides not to issue new shares but, instead, to offer existing shareholders the option to sell their shares to the public. Direct listings can happen much faster than IPOs, cost much less, and don’t dilute existing shareholders’ positions. An example of a company that undertook a direct listing is Spotify.

Reverse takeover

A reverse takeover happens when a private company takes over a public firm. In other words, the companies merge to offer shares to the public. It is a more cost-effective and time-efficient way to list shares compared to a regular IPO. An example of a company that decided to go public through a reverse takeover is Virgin Galactic.

Dutch auction

A Dutch auction happens when the price of the IPO is set by taking bids for the number of shares investors want to buy, and the price they want to pay. After the auction, underwriters will determine the highest price at which all the company’s shares can be floated. An example of a company that decided to go public through a Dutch auction is Google (Alphabet).

How does the IPO process work?

The IPO process starts when a company decides that it wants to sell its shares to the public via a stock exchange. First, an audit must be conducted – considering all aspects of a company’s financials.

If everything is in order, the business then has to prepare a registration statement to file with the appropriate exchange commission, such as the SEC. Next, the stock exchange reviews the application, after which it is either accepted – sometimes subject to certain amendments – or rejected. If it is approved, the company will list a defined number of shares and they will be available for sale through the chosen stock exchange.

Who sets the IPO price?

Investment banks set the IPO price. The company decides how many of its shares it wants to sell to the public and then the nominated investment bank does a valuation of the business. Once that’s done, an initial share price is released, and the public can start trading shares when the listing happens.

Pros and cons of IPOs

Pros of IPOs

A successful IPO can raise huge amounts of capital, as becoming listed on a stock exchange can help to increase the exposure and public image of a company. In turn, the firm’s sales and profit can increase. IPOs are also beneficial to traders because it’s easier to buy publicly traded shares than those that only trade privately.

Cons of IPOs

Public companies are subjected to the rules and regulations of a governing body. One of the rules is that it is required to publicly disclose financials, such as accounting information, tax and profits. IPOs also carry significant costs and could require the company to raise additional funding if its shares perform poorly.

How to trade or invest in an IPO

Before the listing

Some IPOs get a lot of interest from the public before they happen. In these cases, IG may decide to offer a ‘grey market’ CFD – enabling you to speculate on the company’s share price before the IPO.

We base our grey market price on our prediction of the company’s market cap at the end of the first trading day. To trade the grey market, open a CFD trading account and then:

  • ‘Buy’ (go long) if you think the market cap will be higher than the grey market price
  • ‘Sell’ (go short) if you think the market cap will be lower than the grey market price

After the listing

When an IPO has happened, you can start trading or investing in shares, as you would any other shares on the stock market. Open an IG account to:

Remember, if you’re trading, you can profit from upward or downward share price movements. But if you’re investing in shares, you can only profit from rising share prices and dividend payments – if made by the company.

How have IPOs performed over time?

  • 2014
  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019

Past performance is not an indicator of future performance

Past performance is not an indicator of future performance

Past performance is not an indicator of future performance

Past performance is not an indicator of future performance

Past performance is not an indicator of future performance

Past performance is not an indicator of future performance

FAQs

How long is the IPO process?

The length of the IPO process can vary, depending on how well it’s being managed and coordinated. The first step is a financial audit of the company, which can be the longest part of the process – especially if the company’s books are not in order.

The business then has to prepare a registration statement to file for the IPO. The next step is to allow the stock exchange to review the application. This can happen quickly if it has no concerns. A well-managed IPO could take up to 12 months, but it could be longer.

How do I find new IPO stocks?

To find new IPO stocks, you can sign up to our IPO mailing list. You’ll receive updates on upcoming IPOs and any changes to expected listings.

How much does an IPO cost?

Any company wanting to list on a stock exchange has to carry the cost of an IPO – no costs are carried by the individual trader or investor before they start trading or investing. When trading with IG charges differ for CFD trading and share trading.

The cost of an IPO for a company will depend on the registration requirements of the stock exchange where it is being listed. In addition, there will generally be underwriting fees and offering costs, as well as legal and accounting fees. Larger companies could face additional costs when preparing to list.

How is the IPO price calculated?

The IPO price is calculated by an investment bank. First, the company decides how many of its shares it wants to sell to the public. Then, the nominated investment bank does a thorough valuation of the business. Once that’s done, an initial share price is released, and the public can start trading shares when the listing happens.

You might be interested in…

Find out more about trading shares with IG

Learn how to make the most of IPOs and grey markets with IG

Discover how to buy and trade shares with IG

1 EY – Global IPO trends, 2014 – 2019
2 Renaissance Capital, 2019
3 Inc., 2014
4 Fortune, 2014
5 CNBC, 2014
6 Inc., 2015
7 CNBC, 2015
8 The Motley Fool, 2016
9 Inc., 2016
10 The Wall Street Journal, 2016
11 IPO Candy, 2017
12 StashLearn, 2017
13 CNBC, 2017
14 CNBC, 2017
15 USA Today, 2018
16 IG, 2017
17 Traders Community, 2019
18 CNBC, 2019
19 Forbes, 2019
20 Yahoo Finance, 2019