The stock story heading into 2015 remains very much on the IPO theme that dominated 2014, as the initial public offering cycle is still a strong one — but like 2014, there’s a chance fashion companies could be left out in the cold again.
This story first appeared in the December 31, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
To be sure, boosting the rise in technology firms heading to the equity markets was Alibaba’s $25 billion IPO in September on the New York Stock Exchange. There also were a high number of Chinese e-commerce firms heading to the U.S. to list, almost equally split between the NYSE and Nasdaq. Globally, many other IPOs fit the tech theme, as well, such as those in Europe by German online retailer Zalando and British fast-fashion e-tailer Boohoo.com, which are considered technology firms first and fashion Internet retailers second.
Of the year ahead, Maria Watts, director at Baird Global Investment Banking, said, “I don’t see much activity in the first quarter for apparel and footwear. I see [the potential for] some things later in the year. There was a dearth of apparel brands going public this year, but some brands are getting to be of a certain scale, and they are starting to see growth hitting on all cylinders. As they weigh [their options for] a sale and an IPO, the IPO might be more attractive in terms of valuation.”
On the fashion front, the two that floated this year were Jimmy Choo, which raised $227 million, and Boot Barn, which raised $80 million. There could be a similar dearth of fashion IPOs in 2015, as well. While there has been speculation that J. Crew is toying with the idea of going public, there’s no guarantee, and its recent weak results might influence the timing. Another fashion-related firm that might go public in 2015 is Net-a-Porter, although the company, a division of Compagnie Financière Richemont, would be considered a technology IPO. According to IPO investment advisory firm Renaissance Capital, Richemont is expected to float the British e-tailer on the main London Stock Exchange and could raise $200 million when it does so.
There is the question of how long the IPO window will stay open and what equity markets will be like midyear. Technology shares saw volatility this year — as did the entire market — and at one point during the August-September period, there was concern over whether the IPO window might close.
That’s not a concern going into 2015, at least not for the first quarter, given U.S. stock markets’ recent buoyancy. If anything, the markets bode well for a third straight year in a positive IPO cycle, according to data from Renaissance Capital.
Observers thought 2013 was a watershed year in the IPO cycle, since annual global IPO proceeds hit a record $137 billion. North America was then the “largest contributor in IPO issuance,” Renaissance Capital said, noting that activity in the U.S. raised $51.7 billion. Then came 2014, which set an even higher record as global annual proceeds reached $204.8 billion. With 273 completed IPOs that raised $84.9 billion, data from Renaissance Capital shows that the “U.S. IPO market set a 14-year record against a mostly low-volatility backdrop.”
The IPO investment advisory firm said the global IPO pipeline has doubled from last year’s levels, with financial and technology companies leading the charge. It concluded that a “healthy pipeline and still-positive U.S. economic backdrop should support another year with more than 200 IPOs.”
In addition to Net-a-Porter, upcoming tech-related firms that have filed for IPOs include Web-based cloud-storage provider Box and Web advertising platform Outbrain. On the consumer side, burger chain Shake Shack filed flotation plans on Monday, while party-supply retailer Party City indicated its plans earlier this year. Others that are in discussions for possible IPOs — although with no guaranteed timing — include global local networks for accommodations platform Airbnb, Web-based cloud-storage provider Dropbox, visual discovery tool Pinterest, photo-messaging app Snapchat, subscription-based music-streaming service Spotify and on-demand transportation app Uber.
For the firms that completed their IPOs this year, a handful are trading above their opening prices.
Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd. is ending the year in the trading range of $105.79, above its opening price of $92.70. JD.com, Chinese e-commerce firm and Alibaba’s chief competitor, is in the trading range of $23.29, above its $21.75 opening price. Cnova N.V., the e-tail operation of French retail giant Casino, is trading around $8.19, above its opening price of $7.63. Jimmy Choo’s trading range is $2.67, above its $2.18 flotation price. German online retailer Zalando is trading around $31.07, also above its opening price of $26.18. Currency conversions to the U.S. dollar are at current exchange.
The other IPOs haven’t fared as well. Weibo Corp., the Chinese microblogging site, is around $14.30, below its opening price of $16.27. Beijing-based e-commerce cosmetics firm Jumei.com is in the $13.76 range, below its opening price of $27.25.