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Global IPO Watch

Q1 2021 in review

Global indices end the first quarter with gains

The S&P 500 index ended the first quarter with a record close, whilst in Europe, the Stoxx 600 ended the quarter near an all-time high. Overall, these positive global market conditions were driven by continued government stimulus programmes, post-pandemic optimism fuelled by vaccine rollouts and improved macroeconomic indicators. However, as global indices have delivered solid performance in Q1 2021, the theme of sector rotation from tech and lockdown winners into cyclical stocks has continued, presenting performance challenges for some investors. In particular, some of the biggest tech stocks saw valuations trimmed, whilst autos, travel and leisure, and banking stocks saw notable gains.

Macroeconomic indicators supportive for the recovery

Global macroeconomic indicators provided positive momentum to equity capital markets with a solid economic recovery narrative. March PMI data across the US, Europe and Mainland China all exhibited significant improvement compared to prior months, indicating an expansion of business activity in all regions and overall confidence.

Strongest first quarter for global IPO activity in recent history

Global IPO issuance in Q1 2021 was US$202.9bn from 727 IPOs, fuelled by the significant SPAC IPO activity in the US (#298 / US$96.0bn). Technology and Consumer Discretionary (including e-commerce) have been driving the global IPO issuance this quarter. The US market has dominated IPO and FO issuance, accounting for 68% and 50% of the global proceeds raised through IPOs and FOs respectively.

Global highlights from Q1 2021

  • IPOs
    • Globally, there were 727 IPOs in Q1 2021, raising a total of $202.9bn.
    • 2021 YTD proceeds are already more than 60% of full year 2020 proceeds and the number of IPOs completed is more than 50% of the total number of IPOs taking place in 2020.
    • The Americas accounted for 58% of  global IPO transactions and 71% ($143.9bn) of global proceeds.
    • Whilst Asia-Pacific IPO activity continued to trend downwards in Q1 2021 from Q4 2020, first quarter activity was strong with 217 IPOs raised $31.5bn.
    • EMEA is off to a strong start to the year, Q1 IPO proceeds ($27.5bn) were just $0.6bn below the total 2020 proceeds – an unremarkable year for IPO activity.
  • Further Offers
    • 1,285 FOs raised $247.9bn in Q1 2021 with prominent issuance across the Financials and Health Care sectors.
    • Q1 2021 FO activity levels were high as compared to the first quarter of 2019 and 2020 - there were more than double the number of FOs in Q1 2021 as compared to Q1 2020.

Outlook for the remainder of 2021

Cyclical stocks expected to continue momentum

Cyclical stocks continued to build on their outperformance further in Q1 2021 that started last year following global vaccine rollouts. We expect the strength of the cyclical stocks to continue in the second quarter and beyond as macroeconomic indicators point to recovery.

Factors to watch out for in Q2

Equity markets have already priced in positive news around vaccine rollouts and any delay in vaccine progress may trigger spikes in market volatility. Extensive talks regarding inflationary trends since January have put the focus back on interest rates, however, policymakers continue to support their respective stimulus programmes keeping interest rates lower for longer. 

ESG strategy is no longer optional

Global shifts in investors’ attitude towards ESG across all markets has made it one of the top priorities for IPO candidates, as investors are now focusing on sustainability issues when making their investment decisions. ESG strategy is increasingly a critical pillar of the equity story for companies looking to go public. In particular, we see investors focusing not only on the coherent communication of the strategy, but also robust reporting of ESG metrics.

IPO pipeline is strong, sector representation to broaden

Whilst there is no shortage of IPO candidates and the upcoming quarter is looking very busy across sectors, the abundance of investment opportunities is likely to make investors more selective and price sensitive, reflecting on recent aftermarket performance.

We expect the IPO pipeline to broaden in terms of the sector representation including more of the recovery themed sectors in addition to Technology and Consumer Discretionary. 


Ross Hunter

IPO Centre Leader, Partner, London, PwC United Kingdom

+44 (0) 7802 918885


Nadja Picard

Partner, Global Reporting Leader, PwC Germany

+49 211 981 2978


Americas - Q1 2021 overview

$2tn plan to rebuild infrastructure and reshape the economy

In an effort to reshape the US economy, the US government has unveiled the plans to spend an additional $2tn in infrastructure investments and manufacturing subsidies, largely funded by corporate tax increases. The plan includes several ESG initiatives which were expected by the market and provided additional boost to renewables stocks in the US and Europe. The stimulus plan also proposed to invest in the semiconductor industry, helping technology stocks in both the US and Europe.

Another outstanding quarter for SPACs in the US

SPAC IPO activity in the US has seen another unprecedented quarter, already surpassing full year 2020 SPAC issuance. SPAC IPOs represented $96.0bn (71%) of US IPO proceeds in the first quarter. Notably, what has previously been largely a US phenomenon is now beginning to feature in other markets, particularly in Europe, where we have seen a number of SPAC IPOs pricing this quarter.

Retail investors are transforming the equity markets

Retail investors globally are becoming a more prominent feature of the equity markets and should not be considered a lockdown-phenomenon. With the ease of technology and reduced costs of trading, retail investors contribute to a significant volume of the secondary market trading in the US. Retail demand particularly around large consumer focused brands can no longer be ignored and may provide additional momentum to the IPO markets going forward.

What may have been under appreciated in Q1 due to the focus on the SPAC phenomenon is Q1 2021 US IPO issuance was the strongest in over 20 years for operating companies.

Michael Bellin - IPO Services Co-Leader, PwC US

EMEA - Q1 2021 overview

EMEA IPO market revival in 2021

The IPO volumes in Europe in Q1 has been the highest in years, reflecting the significant scale of investor demand as global investors are drawn to Europe's compelling relative value. Towards the end of the quarter investors' portfolio re-balancing appears to be driven by fundamental concerns of slower vaccine deployment, COVID 3rd wave and postponed recovery into the second half of the year.

European SPACs continue to gain momentum

In Amsterdam, a European Fintech SPAC, priced it's €415m IPO after running a 4 day bookbuild. In Frankfurt, a technology-focused SPAC concluded its €275m IPO in February, after a short two-day bookbuilding. A growing pipeline of European SPACs is expected to list in either Amsterdam or Frankfurt in the coming months.

ESG and decarbonisation of portfolios remains a priority topic for investors

Norway’s sovereign wealth fund Norges Bank, announced that it intends to accelerate divestments from companies that fall short of key ESG metrics. Notably, the investment manager calculated that companies performing poorly on sustainability metrics, are increasingly exhibiting lower returns.

This has been a strong start to the year for IPOs in Europe, with Q1 2021 delivering the strongest first quarter since 2000. Improved market confidence driven in part by the ongoing vaccination programmes across Europe, continued government support programmes and supportive macroeconomic data provided a positive backdrop. There are positive signs that momentum in the IPO market will continue throughout 2021. Given that backdrop, concerns around the pace of economic recovery and a hot IPO market in Q1, we anticipate that investors will focus on differentiated equity stories and challenge the overall quality of issuers.

Mark Hughes - Partner, Capital Markets, PwC United Kingdom

Asia-Pacific - Q1 2021 overview

Mainland China announced above 6 percent growth GDP target rate

In March the 2021 growth target rate for the Chinese economy was set to be at least 6% at this year’s National People’s Congress. However, current forecasts from the IMF already suggest a higher growth rate for this year amounting to well above 8% while still taking into account ongoing geopolitical tensions. Other Asian economies, such as India, are expected to expand at double-digit levels.

Strong debut into the new year for Asian IPOs

The best-ever first quarter for new Asian listings was driven by the constructive global market environment of high liquidity, low interest rates and rallying stock markets. Globally the two largest IPOs this quarter are coming from the Asia-Pacific region raising more than $10bn combined.

Outlook remains uncertain as the pipeline is focused on tech and growth stocks

Driven by high valuations, many technology companies were seeking to be listed in the first three months of the year to take advantage of high investor demand throughout the region. However, more recently early warning signals become apparent making opportunistic issuances more challenging. In particular, large Mainland China IPO candidates, which are considered to be of monopolistic character, are under high scrutiny by the government. 

Two Asia tech IPOs topped the global IPO league table in Q1 2021. Other sizable tech listings and “returnee” listings in Shanghai and Hong Kong continued to drive growth. Looking ahead, mergers with SPACs as a route to public markets are increasingly being considered by Asia-Pacific issuers including some of the region’s tech unicorns.

Kennedy Liu - Head of Capital Markets, PwC China

Global IPO Watch: Top Stock Exchanges

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Contact us

Ross Hunter

Ross Hunter

IPO Centre Leader, Partner, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0) 7802 918885

Nadja Picard

Nadja Picard

Partnerin, Capital Markets Europe Leader, PwC Germany

Tel: +49 211 981-2978

David Ethridge

David Ethridge

IPO Services Co-Leader, PwC United States

Tel: +1 (212) 845 0739

Kennedy Liu

Kennedy Liu

Capital Markets Leader, PwC China

Tel: +852 2289 1881

Mike Bellin

Mike Bellin

IPO Services Co-Leader, Partner, PwC United States

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