The IPO market and the Brexit effect

With days to go before the UK’s vital referendum on continued membership of the European Union, the dark triad of economics is stalking the markets – fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Volatility in sterling and in capital markets has increased with each day closer to the vote and each poll attempting to predict the result.

Nowhere has the effect of this uncertainty been felt more clearly than in the pipeline for initial public offerings in the UK.

According to figures from the latest edition of the authoritative PWC IPO watch, IPOs in London have fallen from 27 raising €4.65 billion in the first quarter of 2015 to just 18 raising €2.32 billion in the first quarter of 2016. Although there were other issues facing global markets such as the slowdown and bear market in China, the trend is not seen in the wider European IPO market. Deutsche Bourse saw IPOs static year-on-year while funds raised merely dipped rather than crashing.

Successful IPOs have also been smaller and PWC’s research shows that so-called greenshoe arrangements allowing companies to issue additional shares and raise extra capital if demand exists have gone largely unused. Metro Bank plc which raised £400 million issued no extra shares for example while Countryside Properties plc lifted funds raised by £44 million to £349 million confounding market expectations of high demand.

Further evidence of weakness comes in research by Dealogic which revealed that in May just $467m has been raised in flotations in the UK. Meanwhile in Europe $2.1bn was raised and $2.8bn raised  in the US.

Stockmarket analysts believe that the market has not been so weak in Britain since the financial crisis and market turmoil in 2008. And that while a vote to remain might unleash pent up demand, a leave vote would merely add to uncertainty as markets wrestled with the lengthy exit process and parallel re-negotiation of trading arrangements between the UK and continental Europe especially in areas such as financial passporting and export tariffs.