Global equity markets delivered yet another strong quarter in Q2 2021, with indices in the US and Europe reaching a number of record highs and closing H1 with double digit gains. Reopening of global economies boosted by the rollout of the vaccination programmes, strong macroeconomic indicators and accommodative monetary policies, all contributed to the strong equity markets sentiment. However, as the second quarter progressed, investors’ focus was shifting towards the pace of the recovery and inevitable implications for inflation including potential interest rates hikes, as demonstrated by the hawkish tone from the Federal Reserve.
A combination of strong equity markets, downward trend in volatility and supportive valuations provided an ideal backdrop for IPO issuance with H1 achieving record IPO issuance globally. The first half of 2021 delivered 1,309 IPOs raising US$334bn, with both the Americas and EMEA IPO proceeds in H1 already exceeding total 2020 IPO proceeds. The $131.0bn raised in Q2 2021 is $87.4bn higher than Q2 2020. The bullish market sentiment cooled a touch in second quarter compared with the record first quarter as investors became more selective and price sensitive, particularly in certain territories. From a sector perspective, technology, e-commerce and financials dominated new issuance activity in the first half.
Globally, there were 582 IPOs in Q2 2021, raising a total of $131bn. Whilst below the record levels in Q1, this was significantly ahead of Q2 2020 and one of the strongest second quarters on record.
This can largely be attributed to a slow down in SPAC activity in Q2, where proceeds raised fell by 83% globally.
The Americas has seen a marked decrease in activity, with both number of deals and proceeds raised more than halving from last quarter. The two largest raises for the region in Q2 2021 have been by foreign companies.
The momentum in EMEA has continued, with Q2 raising the same level of proceeds as Q1, despite smaller average deal sizes.
Activity in Asia-Pacific has trended upwards from the dip last quarter, almost recovering to the high levels seen in H2 2020.
889 FOs raised $209.4bn in Q2 2021, a 16% decrease from Q1. The Americas is the only region with a drop in activity.
There were several large raises in the quarter, with four of the top five transactions in H1 2021 occurring in April.
Whilst the signs are pointing towards global economies staying on the recovery path, inflation and a resurgence of COVID-19 remain potential sources of volatility. The key for central banks will be to navigate between these two risks and this path will have a fundamental bearing on equity markets in H2 2021. If inflation begins to take off, an increase in interest rates could put the brakes on the equity markets bull run. However, there is a view that the current inflation spike is temporary and that the major central banks are still years away from raising interest rates, especially with COVID-19 remaining a risk to the downside for economies – if this is the case, the tailwinds to equity markets will remain in place.
With positive market sentiment providing continued support to global IPO activity and a significant number of companies gearing up for IPOs or SPAC mergers, we expect a steady pipeline of deals in the second half of 2021. Ever since the traditional IPO route was disrupted by COVID-19, markets have adapted to virtual ways of working and innovation has been front of mind.
As the SPAC market cooled in the US in Q2, we have seen an increased number of European SPACs starting to trade on various exchanges in Europe, and this trend is likely to continue. However, with a large number of SPACs looking to identify their targets, the focus will now be shifting towards SPAC mergers. The success of these so called “de-SPACing” transactions will have a significant impact on the SPAC model in public equity markets.
We have noted in our earlier reports that ESG strategy has now become an important pillar of the equity story and value factor for IPOs. This continues to be evidenced in recent transactions, with investors integrating ESG considerations into their investment decision making process. A more robust ESG strategy, information on KPIs and reporting will be expected by investors from the companies looking to go public.
H1 delivered exceptional new issuance activity. Q2 2021 IPO activity fell compared to Q1 but still yielded proceeds of $63.3bn – more than twice the level of proceeds raised in Q2 2020. The fall in number and proceeds versus Q1 was largely attributable to a slow down in SPAC issuance as investor sentiment to these vehicles cooled; SPAC proceeds have dropped from US$96.0bn in Q1 to US$12.8bn in Q2. It is expected, however, that IPO activity will remain high throughout the second half as current supportive market backdrop, low volatility and attractive valuations provide an appealing environment for issuers.
The US economy remains on track for recovery and it is expected that 2021 will possibly record the strongest growth in recent history. Equity markets also did not disappoint investors with both S&P and NASDAQ posting H1 gains, boosted by earnings growth on the back of economic reopening progress. Inflation remains a key risk with markets closely watching Federal Reserve’s communications around potential rates increase.
Despite some volatility in the market caused by COVID-19, Brazil IPO market was the second busiest in the Americas. Similar to other regions, technology, financials and healthcare dominated the new issuance. Retail investor participation also continued to grow and is expected to provide additional boost to the Brazilian equity market.
Although total Q2 2021 IPO volumes were down compared to Q1 2021 given the slowdown in SPAC pricings, Q2 2021 saw 99 traditional IPOs raise $40 billion - the highest volume of traditional IPOs in 20 years. The market is conducive for IPOs and the pipeline is strong.
In the past three months equity markets in Europe hit several all time highs supported by positive economic data, further rollout of vaccination programmes and optimism in terms of the overall reopening of businesses. Hence new issuance gained further momentum and reported the strongest six months since the turn of the millennium.
Despite the lowest volatility levels this quarter since the start of the pandemic and the record-breaking H1 performance, investors are becoming increasingly concerned about inflation and how central banks are handling the rising pressure on prices, most prominently measured by higher commodity prices. Consequently, investors continue to be more selective and price sensitive as this year’s high valuation levels are tested further.
As investor sentiment remains positive, the issuance activities are expected to be record-breaking for the second half of 2021 as long as global equity markets stay robust and macroeconomic indicators continue to be supportive. This might hold true also for the European SPAC market, which enjoys a broader sector coverage spread among the major European stock exchanges.
European IPO activity in the second quarter of 2021 has continued at a strong pace, achieving the busiest first half in recent history. The European IPO pipeline continues to be strong and new issuance momentum looks set to continue in the second half of the year.
The People’s Bank of China signaled that the reserve requirement ratio (RRR) could be cut to 50 bps for most banks with the aim of releasing a liquidity reserve of more than $100bn to boost the Chinese economy. Such stimulating measures are expected to further help the economy to rebound to pre-pandemic levels as smaller companies struggle in light of increasing commodity prices and other uncertainties currently to be faced in the market.
As global equity markets rallied in H1 2021, China continued to lead the IPO activities in the region followed by Hong Kong. For the latter, strong activity is expected for the second half of 2021 as regulators propose to streamline the listing process for foreign issuers by introducing a new platform FINI (Fast Interface for New Issuance). FINI helps to shorten the gap between IPO pricing and trading and thereby overall digitalise the settlement process for market participants as well as regulatory authorities.
Despite favourable market conditions, many Chinese overseas IPO candidates might face additional scrutiny by domestic authorities - as a recent listing on the NYSE demonstrated. Just shortly after its US-market debut a ban hit the issuer due to privacy concerns leading to double-digit stock price decline. Such tightening of Chinese securities regulations and antitrust probes might shake up the IPO community as regulators at home try to exert control over local businesses that are listed abroad.
China and Hong Kong capital markets stand to directly benefit from strong domestic economic recovery and the current geo-political environment as the trend of returnee home coming listing is expected to continue in the second half of the year
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