Equity markets in the US and Europe finished Q3 2021 in positive territory and, whilst the quarterly gains were modest, the S&P 500 and Stoxx 600 have recorded their 6th consecutive quarterly gain despite a mixed macroeconomic backdrop. The weakness in September was driven by several factors such as the signals of tightening of the monetary policies by central banks, inflation concerns, potential impact on economic recovery of the delta variant and supply chain disruptions. The August slowdown in China also reflected signs of weak consumer spending and, more recently, challenges in the Chinese property sector.
After a record breaking first half of the year, global IPO activity has slowed down in Q3 2021 bringing the total quarterly issuance more in line with the historical levels. This can be attributed to a generally quieter summer period, diminishing SPAC issuance (vs Q1 2021) and a pause for Chinese IPOs in the US. Whilst global IPO issuance in the third quarter has totalled US$112.3bn, a slower quarter compared to last year’s Q3 issuance of US$122.3bn, it was still the most active Q3 in recent years in Europe and the UK. We have seen a variety of businesses coming to the market across a broad range of sectors including financials, technology, healthcare, industrials and consumer.
The outlook for inflation, expectations of tightening of the monetary policies and global supply chain disruptions are putting pressure on the post lockdown economic recovery. However, the recovery phase of the economic cycle is expected to continue through the remainder of 2021 and beyond, albeit at a slower pace, as reopening of economies is further supported by the rollout of booster vaccinations. Potential emergence of other virus variants, inflation concerns and further slowdown in China are the biggest risks to the economic growth outlook.
With a significant pipeline of deals to choose from, investors are now more selective and price sensitive as demonstrated by some of the recently cancelled or downsized transactions. Ability to demonstrate an attractive equity story underpinned by a robust set of KPIs, strong governance and early IPO preparation, would give issuers a greater chance to succeed at IPO and in the aftermarket. Another important consideration for investors is the aftermarket performance - this ties back into the IPO pricing and the overall quality of the issuers. Despite this backdrop, the IPO pipeline is expected to be very busy with a large number of issuers looking to tap the market in the fourth quarter.
With increasing SPAC redemptions, the sentiment towards SPACs has cooled globally. This includes the European market which had not seen any new SPACs pricing since July until a sizeable SPAC listing in October on Euronext Amsterdam. However, the focus has now shifted towards SPAC mergers with a number of transactions closing this quarter and significant capital held for investment within SPACs.
An ESG agenda remains an important consideration in the investors’ decision making process. Our recent global investor survey on driving progress in ESG highlights that investors expect ESG to be a core part of the strategy with a clear route to net zero targets. Investors are also likely to take action if companies are not demonstrating they are doing enough to address relevant ESG priority topics.
Whilst it is expected that the recovery cycle will continue in the US, as it enters a mature phase, the pace is likely to slow. Other indicators such as US consumer confidence that has declined for the third consecutive month in September and recent miss from US non-farm payrolls indicate that the sentiment is fragile. Rising inflation and potential timing of the first rate hike by the Federal Reserve will continue to dominate headlines.
Despite slower Q3 2021 IPO issuance compared to the previous quarters, the IPO market in the US has delivered a significant pipeline of deals across a variety of sectors with $39.0 bn of traditional IPOs and $16.8bn of SPAC IPOs pricing in the third quarter. Notably, the recent increase in SPAC redemptions signals a decrease in investors’ appetite towards this asset class with focus now shifting toward the SPAC merger transactions.
With 17 IPOs pricing in Q3, raising $5.1bn, the IPO market in Brazil is heading for a record year. However, investors grow cautious about increased political risk in Brazil and potential impact on the IPO market as the political situation develops.
We are excited about the pipeline for Q4 2021 and 2022 and in particular are encouraged to see companies coming to market beyond Tech and Pharmaceuticals & life sciences to include a healthy flow of issuers from Consumer, Health Care Services, and Industrials.
IPO activity in Europe remained robust year-on-year. After one of the busiest H1s in recent history the IPO activity in Q3 remained strong albeit some volatility in the market especially in September. Also equity markets in Europe finished Q3 with modest gains despite a mixed macroeconomic environment. The turbulence in September was largely caused by various factors such as supply chain disruptions, inflation concerns and expectations of possible monetary tightening by central banks.In early October, European equity markets rallied on the back of better than expected earnings season momentum leading to best weekly performance since March for several major indices in the region.
Recently, several European companies have put their IPO plans on hold as investors become more selective in an increasingly volatile buyer's market. Nevertheless, more than a dozen of European IPO candidates are currently in PDIE that are pushing their way onto the market in times of issuers competing for investors attention and demand. An important driver of investor sentiment remains the expected performance of transactions in the aftermarket including focus on valuation and investment case. Thereby investors are keen on a high quality investment story characterized by a robust set of KPIs, strong governance and well planned IPO process.
Except for one SPAC transaction in Amsterdam and one in Frankfurt in early October, there has been no activity in the European SPAC market since July after SPAC mania in the US spilled over into Europe. Although European SPACs peaked in the first half of 2021 even the busiest hub London has been quiet. Given the weak performance - despite some notable exceptions - and a larger number of existing SPACs still eagerly seeking attractive investment opportunities, demand has slowed and only few selective new launches are expected in the short term.
This has been another strong quarter for European IPO activity with the strongest Q3 we have seen in recent years. This is despite both the traditional summer slowdown in activity, as well as some market volatility driven by macroeconomic concerns as major economies continue an uneven recovery from lockdown. Yet there are signs, after a remarkable first half of the year, that this is very much a buyers market with high levels of selectivity and price sensitivity. Investors are paying particularly close attention to valuation and aftermarket performance. A high quality investment story underpinned by a robust set of KPIs, strong governance and properly planned IPO process, will be of paramount importance in realising value in the months ahead.
The major Asian stock markets tumbled at the end of this quarter, driven by rising commodity prices such as oil, gas and other economically very relevant commodities. At the same time, investor sentiment is very volatile as they fear continued global inflation and costly supply disruptions, especially for many Asian manufacturing companies. However, the number of IPOs and proceeds raised in Q3 is similar to the the level of Q2, demonstrating the overall robustness and confidence in the IPO market in the region despite the ongoing turbulences.
The liquidity crisis in the Chinese real estate market has spread, raising fears that it could spill over into the Chinese economy as creditors' obligations are at risk. The challenge is to strike a sustainable - less debt intensive - balance, as the Chinese economy has long relied on the oversized real estate sector to generate growth and jobs. If authorities continue to reduce debt consistently, this will also have an enormous impact on the financial markets and change the perception of the Chinese economy.
Investors remain uncertain about Hong Kong's future status as the main Asian capital market hub outside China, as Chinese regulators have announced their aversion to US-listed tech IPOs. This ambiguity will prevent a significant upswing, which is not expected until early 2022 at the earliest, as domestic issuers seek clear guidance on foreign listing regulations.
The near term IPO window in Asia-Pacific is affected by market uncertainty over regulatory tightening of platform related and other industries in China, liquidity of Chinese property developers and interest rate hike but the pipeline remains robust. Investors remain uncertain about the operating environment and regulatory tightening across a range of industries comprising large groups - many of them listed in Hong Kong or are planning a listing as Chinese regulators have announced their aversion to US-listed tech IPOs. This ambiguity will prevent a significant upswing, which is not expected until early 2022 at the earliest, as domestic issuers seek clear guidance on foreign listing regulations.
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