Initial public offerings raised almost $20 billion globally in the first quarter, as companies from Pfizer Inc. to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. took advantage of a rally in stock markets to sell businesses.
IPOs generated 18 percent more than in the year-ago period, led by Pfizer’s $2.6 billion sale of its animal-health unit Zoetis Inc. and Goldman Sachs’s offering of shares in German apartment landlord LEG Immobilien AG, according to data compiled by Bloomberg as of March 27. Initial offerings declined to about half the level of the fourth quarter, when companies raised about $37 billion.
“We’re in a world where investors believe in repair and global recovery,” said Evan Damast, global head of equity syndicate at Morgan Stanley in New York. “While there are still a handful of skeptics proceeding with caution, the global investor base is very receptive to growth stories.”
The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed to a record this month and the MSCI World Index rose to its highest in almost five years. Sustained gains may help ease the biggest global backlog of IPOs since at least 2007, encouraging companies including Bausch & Lomb Holdings Inc. and China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. to pursue offerings as soon as this year.
The U.S. led IPO fundraising in the first quarter, with companies raising $8.91 billion, 44 percent more than a year ago, data compiled by Bloomberg show. European companies generated $3.66 billion, a 25 percent increase. Asia was the biggest market to post a decline, with IPOs slumping 59 percent to $2.88 billion.
IPOs are likely to gather pace in the second quarter as companies across more industries proceed with sales and more private-equity firms seek to exit investments, said Mary Ann Deignan, head of Americas equity capital markets at Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America Corp.
“This may be the beginning of another golden age for IPOs,” said Deignan. “It’s an incredibly broad market.”
Companies in industries ranging from energy to technology, homebuilding and real estate went public in the first quarter, emboldened by the projected economic recovery and the least volatile market in six years. The VIX, a measure of volatility in U.S. stocks, has lost 45 percent since the end of 2011.
Blackstone Group LP’s Pinnacle Foods Inc., the maker of Hungry-Man frozen dinners and Birds Eye frozen vegetables, raised $580 million in an IPO yesterday. Other buyout firms are also looking to sell investments as they seek to raise new funds. Warburg Pincus LLC’s Bausch & Lomb and Madison Dearborn Partners LLC’s CDW Corp. both filed to go public last week, while Bain Capital LLC and TPG Capital’s Quintiles Transnational Holdings Inc. filed to raise $600 million in February.
Global economic growth will accelerate to 2.4 percent this year from 2.3 percent in 2012, according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg. China, where growth slipped last year, will tick up to 8.1 percent from 7.8 percent, and Europe will move from contraction to expansion, according to the survey data.
“Money is continuing to flow into equities from fixed income as investors globally look for yield,” said Klaus Hessberger, co-head of equity capital markets for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in London.
U.S. investors funneled at least $65 billion into equity mutual funds since the beginning of the year, according to data from the Washington-based Investment Company Institute compiled by Bloomberg. Estimated cash flows into equity funds have eclipsed additions to bond funds from the beginning of the year through March 20, the data show. Investors had pulled money out of equities for 19 of the 20 months before January.
“We have seen globally a resiliency to the equity markets,” said Paul Donahue, co-head of Americas equity capital markets at Morgan Stanley in New York. “IPOs are delivering returns to the buy side in excess of key relevant benchmarks like the S&P 500.”
IPOs worldwide posted average returns of 17 percent in the quarter, led by the U.S., with a 25 percent average return, data compiled by Bloomberg show. By comparison, the S&P 500 has gained 10 percent and the MSCI World has risen more than 6 percent.
There are more than $165 billion of IPOs in the pipeline globally, according to data from Ipreo, a New York-based provider of market information. The pipeline of deals in Europe, the Middle East and Africa has risen more than fivefold since the end of last year to $34.2 billion, including an offering of shares in France Telecom SA and Deutsche Telekom AG’s Everything Everywhere Ltd., a company with an estimated value of $15.7 billion, the data show.
Four of the five largest IPOs this quarter came from Europe, including LEG Immobilien’s $1.6 billion initial offering in January and Esure Group Plc’s more than $914 million sale in London this month, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
“An improved macro environment and low volatility levels mean banks’ risk appetite to underwrite transactions is robust,” said Edward Sankey, global co-head of equity syndicate at Deutsche Bank AG.
IPOs in Asia, meanwhile, suffered the worst quarter in nearly four years, slumping to $2.9 billion, as Hong Kong deals dried up and mainland offers were curbed as regulators sought to change listing rules to better protect investors.
Still, IPOs in the region are likely to pick up in the next quarter, said Jeff Zajkowski, head of Asia Pacific equity capital markets at JPMorgan.
“There’s been a noticeable recovery in the risk appetite for investors in Asian equities,” said Zajkowski. “The Hong Kong IPO market is recovering and we expect increased IPO issuance in the second quarter.”
Chinese companies are planning initial sales in Hong Kong which may raise more than $4 billion in the second quarter. China Galaxy Securities Co., a brokerage backed by the country’s sovereign wealth fund, plans to seek about $1.5 billion, while Sinopec Engineering (Group) Co., a unit of the country’s biggest refiner, may start marketing a $1.5 billion offering in April, people familiar with the matter said earlier this month.
While the IPO recovery could be derailed by macroeconomic risks such as a worsening of the sovereign debt crisis in Europe, the strength of investor demand for equities has so far bolstered the market, said David Hermer, head of Americas equity capital markets at Credit Suisse Group AG.
“The broader market is proving remarkably resilient to news that generally in recent years might have derailed it,” Hermer said. “We’re seeing huge interest. The amount of money people are looking to put to work is remarkable.”