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Initial Public Offering (IPO) – Definition, Working & Process Explained

The technique of offering private firm shares to the public in a new stock filing is called an initial public offering. An initial public offering is beneficial as it permits a firm to gain capital through the public funders.


    Table of Contents

    initial public offering ipo

    What Is An Initial Public Offering (IPO)?

    The technique of offering private firm shares to the public in a new stock filing is called an initial public offering. An initial public offering is beneficial as it permits a firm to gain capital through the public funders. It is considered a crucial time for the private funders when they’re converting their firm from private to public. This helps them understand their investment gains, as it comprises a premium share for their private funders. And it also permits public funders to take part in the offering.

    Points To Note

    Now that you have got a brief overview of the Initial Public Offering, let’s move ahead and learn some important points related to it:

    • To keep an IPO, the firms should match the needs put forward by the SEC, Securities and Exchange Commission.
    • By providing shares via the main market, initial public offerings give firms a chance to gain capital.
    • Firms recruit investment banks so that they can fix the date and price of the initial public offering, market, gauge demand, etc.
    • The firm’s initial investors and founders see IPO as an exit structure to get complete profit from their private funding.

    How Does An Initial Public Offering Work?

    A firm is said to be private before filing an initial public offering. Before a firm issues an initial public offering it operates with a small group of stakeholders such as new funders like family, the owners, and pals. The group of stakeholders also includes angel investors or venture capitalists who come under the category of professional investors.

    Issuing an initial public offering is like hitting a major goal for the firm as it offers the business the access to raise huge capital. Apart from a good raise in revenue, an initial public offering also helps the firm is expanding and growing its business. Better transparency and authority of share listing is another reason why an initial public offering helps in getting good terms when finding borrowed funds.

    Once a firm attains a position during its phase of growth where it is sure of being worthy enough to face the demands of the SEC and to match the responsibilities of public stakeholders, it should begin promoting its news of going public. Generally, companies will reach this phase of growth after hitting the private valuation of at least $1 billion. This phase is commonly known as the unicorn stage.

    Many firms which have powerful roots, a good profit potential, and an impressive valuation can apply for an initial public offering. A firm should apply for an initial public offering after properly studying the competition in the market, and its capability to match the listing needs. Any firm sets up the cost of its IPO shares with whole diligence. So, when a firm converts into a public company, the previously possessed private share firm becomes public ownership, and this way the shares of the private stakeholders become worthy of the public trading cost.

    Usually, this conversion period is very crucial for firms to make and bring in the expected returns. The private stakeholders can either sell some portion or all of their shares for profit, or they can choose to keep them as it is in the public market.

    Nevertheless, the funders can get shares in a firm and make a good capital contribution to a firm’s stakeholder equity with the help of a public market. It is safe to say that it opens gates for billions of funders. The public comprises any institutional or individual funder who takes a keen interest in providing funds to the company.

    A firm’s new stakeholder’s equity status gets decided based on the number of shares that a firm sells, and also on the cost at which they get sold. A stakeholder’s equity signifies the shares investors possess when the firm is both, public and private. But, when a firm issues an initial public offering, with the help of money from the initial filing, the equity of the stakeholders increases exclusively.


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      The IPO Process

      An initial public offering comprises 2 main sections:

      • The Pre-marketing stage of the offering
      • The IPO itself

      One will know that a firm has started to show interest in an initial public offering when it promotes itself to underwriters by seeking private bids or by sending out a notice in the public to gather interest. The selection of an underwriter is done by the firm and in a way, it can be said that they lead the whole IPO procedure.

      The process To Issue An IPO

      1. Proposals by underwriters

      The first step is where the underwriters submit proposals, deciding their services and valuations, the kind of security to file, the number of shares, the offer price, and the approximate time period for the market IPO.

      2. Selection of an Underwriter

      The firm selects underwriters for the business and readily assigns terms to underwrite via an agreement.

      3. Team Formation

      The firm then forms the IPO teams which comprise lawyers, underwriters, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) professionals, and certified public accountants (CPAs).

      4. IPO documentation

      The data relating to the firm, needed for the documentation of the initial public offering is gathered. The first filing paperwork that’s needed is the S-1 Registration Statement. This statement has 2 sections,

      • The prospectus
      • Privately kept filing data

      The S-1 statement has primary data about the filing date, which gets revised many times while the pre-IPO procedure. The prospectus is also bound to get revised several times.

      5. Updates & Marketing

      Marketing products are prepared for the big stock filing’s pre-marketing. Executives and underwriters advertise the issuing of shares to predict needs and set the ultimate bid price. Across the marketing strategy, underwriters can propose adjustments to their cost analysis. This includes the ability to change the initial public offering price or the publication date investors consider appropriate.

      Businesses take the required actions to comply with the rules for public share offerings. Firms must follow both the standards for market listing as well as the SEC rules for public firms.

      6. Processes & Board

      The next step is to build a director’s board and confirm there are measures followed to report and audit accounting, as well as financial data.

      7. Issuance of shares

      On an Initial public offering date, the firm raises its stocks. The money from the main offering to stakeholders is collected in cash and represented on the financial statements as shareholders’ capital. As a result, the financial statement share value is wholly reliant on the firm’s shareholders’ capital per share valuation.

      8. After IPO

      Certain post-initial public offering restrictions could be implemented. Underwriters may be given a time limit after the IPO date to acquire additional shares. However, certain buyers may experience periods of inactivity.

      Advantages And Drawbacks of IPO

      The main goal of a public offering is to gather money for a firm. But several other advantages and drawbacks come with it. Let’s learn more about it through the table given below:

      Advantages Drawbacks
      ●       For firms
      – Gathering funds
      – Credibility and publicity Reducing the company debt
      ●       For firms
      – Probability to lose control over the firm.
      – Disclosure of financial and confidential data of the firm.
      – Costs of audits are high
      ●       For funders
      – Just and clear pricing
      – Minimal investment and good returns
      ●       For funders
      – Detailed research is needed.
      – Private data is compromised.

      Talking about the main benefit of an IPO, it lets a firm have access to funding through the whole investing public for raising capital. This leads to quicker share conversions, raises the firm’s exposure, public image, and prestige. This in return helps the firm is raising its profits and sales. Good transparency can be attained with necessary frequent reporting. This lets the firm get a good credit borrowing position than a private firm.

      Now, coming to the drawbacks. After going public, firms may have to go through some downsides. Some of them are that getting an IPO is expensive, the cost of managing a public firm is usually high when compared to the maintenance price of other businesses.

      Alternatives of IPO

      alternatives of ipo

      There are certain alternatives to IPO, let’s have a look at them:

      1. Dutch Auction

      In this type of offering, no IPO is set. The potential investors can simply bid for the desired shares, and the cost they wish to pay. The buyers who agree to give the greatest price are then offered the available shares.

      2. Direct Listing

      This kind of alternative is used when underwriters are not appointed, and an IPO is held without them. Direct listings don’t require the underwriting procedure. This also put the issuer at risk if the IPO doesn’t give good results. But the issuer is also bound to benefit from a greater share cost. This type of listing is best for a firm that has a high-end brand value, and an exciting business.

      3. IPO Investment

      Only after giving it a thorough consideration, and doing a proper evaluation, does a firm decide to make money through an IPO. When a firm takes this decision, it ensures that after this step the returns of new investors will expand and gain maximum capital for their business. That’s why when the IPO judgment is finalized, the chances of business growth are usually predicted to be great. Hence several investors try to fit in and lay their hands first on the shares. Generally, IPOs are fixed at discounted rates to enhance sales, make them seem more attractive, and gather maximum investors from the first issuance.

      Primarily, the cost of an IPO is generally fixed by the appointed underwriters via the pre-marketing procedure. At the fundamental level, the IPO cost is dependent on the firm’s valuation by basic techniques. The general technique that’s used is discounted cash flow. It represents the net current value of the firm’s prospected cash flows.

      This value is taken on a per-share foundation by the interested buyers and underwriters. Other techniques to fix the cost of an IPO are enterprise value, comparable firm adjustments, equity value, etc. The underwriters keep all the factors in mind before fixing the rates of an IPO and also ensure that the prices are discounted to get a good outcome on the day of the IPO launch.

      Execution of an IPO

      Multiple criteria may adversely modify the return rate of an IPO. Such factors are keenly studied by the buyers. There are some IPOs that might be over-promoted by the investment banks and can later lead to primary losses.

      Nevertheless, a major chunk of IPOs is popular for gathering good results in short-term exchange once they get out in the public. Still, there are some important factors to look out for in the execution of an IPO:


      This term indicates the process of re-selling an initial public offering stock in its early days to get an easy profit. Such a condition is common for the stocks sold at discounted rates and rises on its day 1 of trading.

      Lock-Up Contract

      Once a firm decides to convert to the public, the hired underwriters ensure firm insiders like the officials and workers, submit a lock-up statement. These agreements are officially binding deals signed between the firm insiders and the underwriters, limiting them from giving out company shares for a certain time. This period can lie between 3-24 months.

      Waiting Periods

      Certain investment banks incorporate waiting periods into their IPO provisions. This preserves some shares from getting sold after a certain period. Their cost might rise if this provision is accepted by the appointed underwriters, and it may dip if not.

      Read More: Equity Funds


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        All in all, IPO holds a lot of power, and applying for it is a very important switch in the life of a private company. The interested buyers can follow the information given in this article, gather information, stay updated with the headlines, and then invest their best. We hope that this article helped you in understanding everything from the basics to the deep details about an initial public offering (IPO).


        Because the demand for an IPO surpasses its supply, there’s no definite guarantee that all interested buyers can get the shares.

        IPOs are known to render good gains and a great return rate for a firm. Being said that there is always a risk of loss. That’s why buyers should carefully judge every IPO.

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