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How past tech floats fared, and upcoming IPOs in London | Business


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Amazon listed on the Nasdaq at $18 a share with a market value of $438m in 1997, when it was just an online bookseller, with 256 employees. The share price rose gradually over the years, but started to rocket in 2015 after the firm posted substantial profits. Three years later, it became the world’s second trillion-dollar company, just weeks after Apple reached that milestone, and Amazon boss Jeff Bezos became the world’s richest man. Amazon is now worth about $1.6tn, with its shares trading at $3,161 last week.

Google’s IPO in August 2004, six years after it was founded by Sergey Brin and Larry Page, valued it at $23bn, well below the $39bn achieved by rival Yahoo. Google had been forced to cut its float price by almost 40% and halve the number of shares being sold when the process was mired in controversy by technical mishaps, an interview with the founders published in Playboy and other IPO rule breaches. Shares in Google, now Alphabet, started trading on Nasdaq at $85 and rose to more than $100 on their first day. They are now worth $2,129, valuing the company at $1.4tn.

Facebook made its much-hyped $104bn stock market debut in May 2012. Shares in the social networking company jumped by nearly 15% initially but ended their first trading day just a few cents above the $38 offer price. It was talked of as the most disastrous IPO in history and lawsuits were filed against the company. Facebook argued that technical glitches on the Nasdaq had damaged confidence, but fund managers blamed the last-minute decision to increase the number of shares sold. The shares fell steadily for several months before beginning their long rise, and are now worth almost $300, valuing the firm at around $850bn.

Uber suffered a humiliating first day of trading in May 2019, when investors gave the taxi-hailing app a frosty welcome and sent the shares more than 7% below the $45 launch price – which was already 20% lower than the business had hoped to list at. Shares in the loss-making company, which has since branched out into other areas, such as food delivery, have risen 670% since then, valuing the firm at $105bn.

Snap, which owns the instant messaging app Snapchat, went public in March 2017, and saw its shares soar 44% on their first day of trading, valuing the company at $28bn. This has since leapt to $81bn, an eye-watering sum for a business that was set up in 2012 by two twentysomethings, and which is still loss-making. The float catapulted the founders, Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy, into the top tier of tech billionaires.

Upcoming floats on the London Stock Exchange

Oxford nanopore’s gene sequencing

Oxford nanopore’s gene sequencing kit is now used to track Covid variants worldwide

Oxford Nanopore is a 2005 startup spun out from Oxford University whose Covid test was snapped up by the UK government and whose DNA sequencing kit is used to track variants of the virus globally. It plans to list in the second half of this year in what is expected to be one of London’s biggest debuts, with a valuation of up to £7bn, which is set to make its three scientist founders into multimillionaires.

PensionBee, an online pension provider, has announced plans to float, with an estimated market value of £350m. The firm, which helps savers consolidate all their pensions into one new plan, hopes to sell shares to institutional investors as well as its 130,000 active customers. Chief executive Romi Savova, a former Morgan Stanley banker, set up the business in 2014 and owns 44%.

Darktrace, a Cambridge-based cybersecurity firm backed by the tech entrepreneur Mike Lynch, is aiming for a stock market debut that values it at more than £2bn.

Trustpilot, the online review website headquartered in Copenhagen, has picked London for its planned £1bn listing. Other mooted tech listings include the resale site Music Magpie and the money transfer firm Wise, formerly known as TransferWise. And EDF is reportedly looking to float the electric vehicle charger company Pod Point.

Deliveroo’s dismal float shouldn’t be viewed as a yardstick by which future tech IPOs will be measured,” said Danni Hewson, financial analyst at stockbroker AJ Bell. “Nor should its experience deter other tech companies from choosing to list in London.”

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