IPO Corner: Have New Stocks Turned The Corner?

One of the great delights of this extremely hectic and holiday-shortened week has been watching the newest stocks on Wall Street finally get their act together.

The Renaissance IPO index peaked on February 8 2021, a little over a year ago. Since then, its decline has been steeper than the initial COVID shock and the previous “taper tantrum”  of 2013-15 . . . put together.

At this point, an entire year’s worth of new stocks have essentially been ignored and discarded by investors more concerned with short-term defense than long-term opportunities. I’m talking about literally hundreds of stocks here.

Some of these companies rushed to take advantage of the Fed’s free money and pushed their underwriters to get them to the market before they were ready. Some . . . but not all.

I guarantee that many of the failed IPOs of 2021 will survive to become great companies of 2030 and beyond. Others will get bought out and give their shareholders a chance to become part of something larger.

I’m thinking about Afterpay, a leader in the “buy now, pay later” space. The stock drifted early last year, basically failing to get much traction with Wall Street as interest rates started putting pressure on any investment perceived as remotely speculative.

Then in August Jack Dorsey decided he wanted to buy the company and make it part of what was then called Square (SQ) and is now “Block.” Unfortunately, Dorsey was under pressure too, so instead of getting an instant upgrade, Afterpay shareholders were simply trading one depressed stock for another.

But today the story changed dramatically. Earnings were solid and SQ jumped 26% . . . enough to wipe out roughly the last month of selling.

This was a $230 stock a year ago so you can see it has a lot of ground left to recover before it really gets back to business. But I respect the way Dorsey keeps trying (and buying) new things.

That’s what ultimately turns an online bookstore into an Amazon or a niche computer maker into an Apple. Companies that can keep transforming themselves will do a lot better than mere survival.

And in a market where so many stocks are priced for catastrophe, shareholders with a long-term focus will do extremely well. If you bought Afterpay, think hard about how long you can wait to cash out.

A decade? Five years? Two years? Whatever the answer is, I suspect you’ll do well simply leaving your new SQ shares in your portfolio until you need the money.

That’s how early-stage investing works. Otherwise, you’re better off keeping your money in something mature that pays regular dividends . . . or going the other direction with a day-trading-oriented approach.

Of course it’s nice to see your long-term investments bloom as many did this week. But the real gratification is measured in years if not decades.

One last note: I find it significant (and encouraging) that last week’s IPO calendar was completely blank. Not a single company has dared to debut since February 18.

The pause is welcome. Wall Street needs space to go back to last year’s deals and pick a few winners. Then we can handle the pipeline reopening.