Europe’s Sudden IPO Revival Breaks Slow Two-Year Streak

Initial public offerings in Europe are flying off the shelves as big-name investors ranging from SoftBank Group Corp. to Permira Holdings take advantage of buoyant global stock markets to offload stakes in companies that are thriving even in coronavirus-induced lockdowns.

Bootmaker Dr. Martens began taking orders Monday for its IPO of as much as 1.3 billion pounds ($1.8 billion) and within an hour had enough demand to cover all the available shares, SoftBank-backed Auto1 Group GmbH kicked off the sale of up to 1.6 billion euros of stock, while InPost SA said it would price its 3.2 billion-euro sale at the top of an initial range.

Companies are tapping the market after the Stoxx Europe 600 Index extended its rally from the pandemic low to almost 50% and the S&P 500 in the U.S. last week set a record. After two years of subdued activity, the European IPO market could do with the recent rush, most of which is led by beneficiaries of the stay-at-home orders issued amid the pandemic.

Besides Dr Martens, Auto1 and InPost, Swedish boat producer Nimbus and Cordiant Digital Infrastructure, a fund looking to invest in the “plumbing of the internet,” laid out details for their public offerings Monday. The five deals could raise as much as $7.5 billion combined, about a quarter of the $28 billion raised from IPOs on European exchanges through 2020, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The robust appetite reflects a strong equity market, but given the underperformance of European stocks versus the U.S., it’s “a bit early to call it a bubble,” said Gavin Launder, a fund manager at Legal & General Investment Management.

Rallying Markets

The size of the Dr. Martens sale in London by private equity firm Permira and other shareholders could rise to as much as 1.49 billion pounds including an over-allotment option. Polish postal-locker provider InPost, which is listing in Amsterdam, gathered enough investor demand last week to cover its full deal throughout the price range in about an hour and a half of opening up its IPO book.

Neither Dr. Martens nor InPost are raising any money in their listings. Auto1 is seeking 1 billion euros in its Frankfurt sale, with the rest coming from existing investors.

U.S. Surge

Recent exuberance aside, equity capital markets in Europe still lag far behind the U.S., where a spate of IPOs with big price jumps and a record number of blank-check listings have raised question about frothy markets. About 114 firms have announced almost $25 billion of listings in the U.S. this month alone, the data showed.

The surge reflects in part rock-bottom interest rates and the economic stimulus put in place to offset the effect of the coronavirus outbreak.

Irrespective of whether a “very hot IPO market” and a surge in retail participation among other trends will qualify as a bubble, “the ‘excess liquidity’ theme, which is often blamed for these kind of moves, is unlikely to disappear,” JPMorgan equity strategists wrote in a note on Monday.

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