The Day Ahead: Summer siesta for IPOs

After August's barrage, the IPO market seems to be taking a nap
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Through 15 August, 56 IPOs priced and the returns were spotty. The busiest period was the week of 7 August, when a whopping 29 companies went public. Many of the IPOs were about even with their offering prices with others trading at a slight premium. That poor performance has been the norm for August's IPO binge.

"There were too many companies coming out and the market wasn't ready," said David Menlow, president for IPOfinancial.com.

So why the glut of IPOs? Menlow said it was a case of now or never. "If these companies didn't go public now, there was a risk that they weren't going to," he said.

As for the rest of August, the IPO calendar is basically empty -- must be that herd of investment bankers and Wall Street types stampeding to the exits. Discerning IPO investors have clearly gotten their fill of new issues.

Investors also have to get over that August aftertaste. Companies such as Lexar Media, which makes digital film, and Synquest, a supply chain software company, priced below their IPO price ranges even after lowering terms dramatically. When shares began trading, the response was shaky.

Other IPOs wound up running in place. ScreamingMedia.com, Giganet and ChipPAC, a company with real profits and revenue, are about flat with their offering prices. And that AOL Latin America had a great name, but no backing with investors. The company's shares were below its already lowered IPO price.

And the really unfortunate IPOs were hammered. IAsiaWorks clearly didn't work for investors and fell 30 percent through 18 August. The PeoplePC IPO was a disaster from the beginning.

There were a couple of IPO stars, but they were rare. Enterprise storage company McData, a spin-off from EMC was the one of the standouts, with an aftermarket gain topping 200 percent.

Not only did McData have a good pedigree, it also had profits. For the six months ending 30 June, the company reported a profit of $9.6m on sales of $106m.

SpeechWorks International also logged a gain of more than 200 percent from its 1 August IPO. The speech recognition software company lost $6.6m on sales of $6m in its second quarter. Blue Martini also logged a gain of more than 200 percent as of 18 August.

Given August's IPO glut, it's clearly time for a vacation. As for the fall, Menlow said new companies with better fundamentals should emerge. "In the fall, we're looking for a market that is a little bit more robust," he said.

The week ahead:

  • 22 August: Intuit reports its fourth quarter earnings. Since it's not tax season, look for Intuit to detail its Web progress and properties. Consensus estimate: A loss of 9 cents a share.
  • 23 August: Federal Reserve will decide what to do with interest rates on 23 August. The consensus is that Fed chief Alan Greenspan and his merry band of economists will do nothing. Don't expect much euphoria from this decision -- it's a foregone conclusion.
  • 23 August: VA Linux reports its fourth quarter earnings. VA Linux has performed well in recent quarters and has boosted revenue significantly. Of course, VA Linux shares still have a hangover from the company's record topping IPO. Consensus: A loss of 15 cents a share.
  • 24 August: Sycamore Networks reports its fourth quarter results. Analysts are expecting the usual performance, which isn't too shabby. Consensus: A profit of 6 cents a share.
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