The US IPO markets continued to roar: Q3 2018 Capital Markets Watch

October 2, 2018

By Derek Thomson, PwC Capital Markets Research Leader

The US IPO market had its best third quarter since 2014 with 60 IPOs raising $13.4 billion. The trend continued from Q2’18, which also had its best second quarter since 2014. Well-positioned issuers in rapidly growing industries with increasingly addressable markets and proven management teams fared well. The Q3 macroeconomic environment combined with strong corporate profits also produced outperforming investment returns.

The quarter saw larger IPO pricings compared to Q3’17, with the average deal size up 24%, primarily due to three large IPOs raising more than $1 billion each. Despite a typical summer slowdown, the US IPO market continued to show strength in Q3’18 with 24 pricings in September, marking the busiest September in more than seven years.


Pharma and life sciences and technology, media and telecom: Heavy hitters in Q3

Pharma and life science IPOs, led by biotech firms, continued to successfully attract investor interest, with 20 IPOs raising $3.3 billion. It led IPO activity for the sixth consecutive quarter, and was up 82% from Q3’17. Although the sector had the highest issuance volume, PLS IPOs raised less than TMT in Q3’18.

Technology, media and telecom IPOs boomed this quarter with 15 offerings raising $4.3 billion. By comparison, TMT issuance volume was five times that of Q3’17 volume.

SPACs also continued their recent popularity as a funding vehicle in Q3’18 with 11 pricings – a 22% increase from Q3’17. Following a trend from 2017, the SPAC IPO market is starting to see an increase in involvement by several well-established fund managers and private equity firms.


Q3’18 US IPO returns substantially outperformed the S&P 500

Average IPO returns in Q3’18 were 35%, outperforming the S&P 500 return of 7%. The pharma and life sciences sector led IPO performance with an average return of 61%, followed by a single IPO in the energy, utilities and mining sector which has returned 26% quarter-to-date.


Follow-on issuance volume remained relatively flat with fewer proceeds raised

Follow-on issuance increased from Q3’17. However, with 180 follow-ons raising $37.8 billion, issuances declined by 18% compared to the previous quarter. The pharma and life sciences sector led in follow-on volume, with 71 follow-ons raising $8.3 billion and marking the 11th consecutive quarter with PLS as the frontrunner. The financial services and technology, media and telecom sectors followed with 37 deals raising $12.3 billion and 27 deals raising $5.1 billion, respectively. Follow-ons were priced at an average discount of 5.8% to the last trading price, an increase from last quarter’s average discount of 6.7%.


High-yield activity continued to fall to levels not seen since Q1’16

With 67 companies issuing debt worth $43.3 billion, Q3’18 saw a 43% decline in volume and a nearly 34% decline in value from Q3’17. Energy, utilities, and mining led in volume of issuances with 22 deals raising $9.6 billion. Industrial products and technology, media and telecom followed with 12 issuances raising $5.9 billion and 10 issuances raising $10.7 billion, respectively. Refinancing continued to be the primary driver, representing 58% of new issuances this quarter. Similar to Q2’18, 91% of issuers had ratings between B- and BB+, with the remaining issuers falling below this threshold. The average yield was 7.0% across all sectors against an average 10-year Treasury yield of 2.9% this quarter.


What to watch

As some investors begin to anticipate a slowdown in the global GDP growth story, and with inflation starting to creep in and talk of tariffs increasing, many potential IPO issuers, including a number of unicorns, have been speeding up the pace of their IPO readiness work to enable one in the near future.

The IPO window is open for well-positioned US issuers at the moment, and it is likely this window will remain open as IPOs continue to fare well as an asset class. The capital markets environment remains conducive as investors have a large amount of investable cash. Furthermore, the growth stories of IPOs can provide an attractive investment alternative and an opportunity for investors to be part of the ever-evolving business landscape.


Start a conversation


David Ethridge
Managing Director, IPO Services, PwC Deals
Tel: +1 (973) 615 1091


Daniel Klausner
Managing Director, Capital Markets Advisory, PwC Deals
Tel: +1 (646) 573 6756


Derek Thomson
Capital Markets Research Leader, PwC Deals
Tel: +1 (646) 416 0386


Colin Wittmer

Deals Leader, PwC US Email

Curt Moldenhauer

Deals Solutions Leader, PwC US Tel: +1 (408) 817 5726 Email: