‘Bear-ing’ down on the IPO market

Contact: Brenon Daly

This time last week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was just above 12,000. Even with today’s relief rally, the benchmark index is 1,000 points lower, and is at its lowest level since last October. More broadly, both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq have dropped 15% over the past month – declines that cut more than $1 trillion of market value from indexes. Amid all of this value being erased from the market, it’s no wonder that companies are struggling to create new market value, in the form of an IPO.

At least three tech vendors are hoping to debut this week, including online backup provider Carbonite, compliance security specialist Trustwave and WageWorks, which provides services around employee benefits. But those offerings by unknown and unproven companies appear to be a tough sell when the shares of well-known firms with a proven track record are getting mauled by the current bear market.

We’re already seeing signs of the fallout from the rout. WageWorks had to substantially trim the price range in its expected IPO last week. And on Monday, Cornerstone OnDemand, which went public in March, shelved a planned secondary offering.

Even if the equity market does stabilize in the coming days, there’s still a fair amount of uncertainty lingering from recent events such as the debt ceiling debate and the downgrade of the US credit rating, a move that would have been almost unimaginable in earlier decades. Reflecting that skittishness, the CBOE Volatility Index, or VIX, closed at 48 on Monday. That’s the highest reading since the recession days of early 2009 and twice the level from earlier this summer. Altogether, it’s a tough time to be on the market, much less come to market.