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Stock market volatility threatens to disrupt IPO activity

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Feb. 9, 2018.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Wide swings in the U.S. stock market has blunted initial public offering (IPO) activity on Wall Street in what was set to be the busiest week for new listings in more than two-and-a-half years.

All signs points to the disruption to IPOs continuing.

Ten companies had planned U.S. stock market debuts for this week, according to Renaissance Capital, a manager of IPO-focused exchange traded funds. It would have followed the biggest January haul of IPO proceeds on record, and would have been the most active IPO week since June 2015, Thomson Reuters data showed.

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Only six companies went ahead with their IPO due to the volatile stock market, which has sapped much of the investor demand for new listings.

This bodes poorly for companies looking to pull the IPO trigger in the short term.

Forty companies have filed for an IPO with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in the past year, aiming to raise an aggregate $9.2-billion, according to data from Renaissance Capital. This does not include so-called confidential IPO filings which are not yet visible on the SEC's website.

"This volatility has the potential to put IPOs on ice," said Kathleen Smith, principal at Renaissance Capital.

A saving grace for the IPO market is that mid-February typically sees a lull period for new listings. This is because the year-end financial information necessary for filing an IPO by a calendar-year company with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) goes stale in the middle of this month. After that, companies will need to compile and audit a new set of quarterly earnings. Only three IPOs are currently scheduled for next week.

"When stability does come back to the market, the IPO market should benefit from a growing domestic and global economy with heightened consumer confidence," said Lear Beyer, co-head of Equity Capital Markets Origination and head of Financial Institutions Group Origination at Wells Fargo & Co.

U.S. stocks see-sawed this week, demonstrating swings Wall Street has not seen in years. The S&P 500 closed down 3.75 per cent on Thursday and was on track for its biggest weekly percentage drop since 2011.

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IPO postponements included a $500-million listing of IPSCO Tubulars, the U.S. subsidiary of Russian oil and gas pipe maker TMK; the $220-million flotation of Turkish fast-food chain operator TFI Tab Food Investments; and a $130-million listing by Argentine biotechnology firm Bioceres.

Medical technology company Motus GI, scheduled to list on Thursday, also did not price its IPO this week.

The biggest IPO to go ahead was the $437-million listing for Cactus Inc, which supplies wellheads and pressure control equipment.

Other listings included Victory Capital Holdings and Chinese wearable technology company Huami, although the Victory IPO priced at $13 per share, below its $17 to $19 indicated price range. Cardlytics priced on Thursday in a $70-million listing.

Listings for blank-check company Mudrick Capital and medical esthetics provider Evolus Inc went ahead, while Quintana Energy Services sold shares at $10, below its $12-$15 target range.

Of the seven listings this week, four were trading below their IPO prices on Friday.

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"Investors will be looking at what companies and sectors will benefit from the impact of the recent tax reform and a higher interest rate environment relative to inflation fears that have disrupted the market," said Beyer.

U.S. stocks plunged anew on Thursday in another trading session with big swings, as equities remained in a tug-of-war with bond yields, volatility remained high, and investors saw no relief ahead in finding the market's bottom. Reuters
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