Yesterday, the WSJ’s always-excellent Emily Chasan wrote a smart piece regarding the JOBS Act’s confidential IPO provision’s effect on M&A.
This JOBS provision created a confidential SEC review procedure for IPO registration statements of “emerging growth companies” prior to their first registered sale of common equity. Generally, an emerging growth company is an issuer that has less than $1 billion in total annual gross revenues.
The phrase “confidential” is misleading, particularly in an industry that is dedicated to transparency. “Confidential” tends to bring up imagery of James Bond, insider whispers, dark pool trading and pump-n-dump ninjas.
Nothing of the sort. With a confidential IPO registration, all draft IPO registration statements and subsequent amendments are filed with the SEC for non-public review. Like all S-1 files we submit for clients, the SEC is carefully reviewing the filing.
Although a company’s S-1 paperwork may be for the SEC’s eyes only, their intention to hold an IPO is not a secret – and that certainly flags them looking for an exit.
The law forbids the Securities and Exchange Commission from publicly releasing the names of companies that file confidentially for IPOs. But it doesn’t preclude the companies themselves from disclosing that information, or selectively telling potential buyers about their confidential IPO filings, if they choose to do so.
Since the owners of a company preparing to go public want to monetize their investment, the very existence of the confidential filing can accelerate a sale process for a company, and ultimately lead to a less risky outcome for private-equity and venture-capital investors, who can get paid in one fell swoop once an acquisition closes.
In all, the SEC has received stealth IPO filings from about 850 companies in the past three years through June 30, it says… However, only 479 of those filings actually led to an IPO, according to Dealogic, a research firm.
So, IPOs are down 33% this year compared to last – but thanks to the confidential filing process, the “testing the waters” element of the process – once thought to eliminate the media frenzy and market speculation (and breathing room) of an IPO – also means hanging up a “For Sale” sign as a signal to a possible acquirer in this M&A-rich environment.
Vintage clients have the pleasure of burning the “great service” candle at both ends here – beginning with the S-1 filing and ending with the virtual data room management.