Thursday, October 11, 2012
Rena S. Miller
Analyst in Financial Economics
Specialist in Financial Economics
Over the past decade, many sources have reported a precipitous decline in the number of initial public offerings (IPOs) in the United States. These statistics raise several questions: what has caused such a decline? What are the implications for the U.S. economy, and particularly for job creation? At the same time as IPOs appear to have fallen, the amount of private stock offerings has increased, suggesting growth in an alternative source of equity financing.
This report analyzes factors contributing to the decline in IPOs, differences between an IPO involving the sale of shares to the public versus a private stock offering limited to sophisticated investors, and potential economic implications of such a rise in private versus public stock offerings. It also provides analysis of the causes and implications of the stagnation in public IPOs.
The decline is particularly noticeable for IPOs by small companies. Because startups are usually small, and have been widely associated with job creation, there are concerns that whatever is causing such a drop in IPOs is hindering job creation. While research finds support for a link between startups and job creation, there does not appear to be a consensus among academics that the form of financing that a startup uses to grow—that is, through acquisition, through an IPO, or through the issuance of private shares to sophisticated investors—affects job creation. Indeed, while the number of IPOs has dropped, the number of private placements of restricted shares sold only to qualified investors has risen markedly, especially in 2009 and 2010.
Central to the question of how best to stimulate capital formation and IPOs is what has led to the decline in IPOs. Researchers and market participants cite several possible causes. These include regulatory factors, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002 (P.L. 107-204); the costs of initial and ongoing disclosure to investors; a relaxation of the mandatory holding period for restricted shares by the SEC, which may have fostered liquidity in the alternative private placement market; and the costs of filing with individual states for certain securities offerings. Other research points to changes in securities market infrastructure as causes of the IPO decline. Such changes include the cost of underwriting IPOs; reduced trading fees for mainline securities firms stemming from the rise of online discount brokerage firms; a change in the SEC’s order-handling rules; the decimalization of traded securities, thereby reducing brokers’ profits from trading; and a requirement establishing a firewall between underwriting and analyst research, which some say has made it costlier to provide research to support small IPOs.
Enacted on April 5, 2012, in the 112th Congress, the Jumpstart Our Businesses Startup Act (JOBS) Act (P.L. 112-106) is broadly aimed at stimulating capital formation for companies, especially for relatively new and smaller ones. Among other things, the JOBS Act lifts certain impediments to a small company external financing technique known as crowdfunding, establishes a category of firm known as an emerging growth company (EGC), and relaxes various disclosure and accounting requirements for such firms. Criteria for EGC status include having up to $1 billion in annual gross revenue and having less than five years elapse since its initial shares were first sold to the public. In late August 2012, some Members of Congress criticized the SEC’s decision to issue a proposed rule, with a 30-day public comment period, rather than a quicker, final interim rule without the comment period. Others supported this approach. The SEC’s proposed rule would relax traditional restrictions on the ability of a company to use general advertising to promote securities offering to certain defined-sophisticated investors under Rule 506, and under Rule 144a, which exempt certain securities from SEC registration.
Date of Report: September 27, 2012
Number of Pages: 36
Order Number: R42427
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