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What the Economy Needs Now Is More IPOs (Or So Says One Analysis)

For the economic recovery to present itself in the public markets, the U.S. needs to triple the number of IPOs hitting the street this year, according to one estimate.
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You'd think in the current frothy enviroment for initial public offerings, where companies such as GoPro see their stock price jump by about a third on the first day of trading, enough would be enough.

But that's not so, says tax and accounting advisory CohnReznick, of New York. The firm, which specializes in the IPOs of small and mid-market companies, says we're nowhere near where we should be, according to its quarterly survey on the matter. In fact, we'd need three times more IPOs than we're on track for this year, in order to have a sustainable recovery. That's according to the firm's second quarter IPO report, released Tuesday.

“Structural market changes, such as decimalization have contributed to an IPO gap, particularly in the middle market," Dom Esposito, a senior partner at the firm said in a press release.

By "decimalization" Esposito means the policy shift, started in 2001, whereby the Securities and Exchange Commission reduced the "tick" size--the spread between a bid and ask price--for small and mid-market company offerings. That has effectively reduced investment bank and broker interest in the stocks of such firms, which has led to a decrease in the number of IPOs.

This February, SEC chairwoman Mary Jo White announced plans to test widening the spreads for smaller companies. The goal is to spark investor and broker interest in the IPOs of smaller companies.

So far this year, the U.S. is on track to host about 280 public offerings, according to CohnReznick, about 100 more than last year, but far behind the 900 or so the firm figures we need to support a durable economic recovery.

On average, an IPO produces 800 new jobs, Esposito says. And over the last 20 years, we've lost about 8 million jobs because we're not living up to our potential.

What's more, the number of investment banks underwriting IPOs less than $50 million has decreased by 84 percent, compared to 20 years ago, according to the report. In the past year, a mere 27 investment banks participated in offerings of the same size, compared to 166 between 1993 and 1994.

The last time we were about on track? Circa, 1994 when the U.S. had about 558 IPOs.

"Most of the deficit is in the lower-middle market," Esposito says.

Last updated: Jul 3, 2014

JEREMY QUITTNER | Staff Writer | Staff Writer, Inc. and Inc.com

Jeremy Quittner is a staff writer for Inc. magazine and Inc.com. He previously covered technology for American Banker and entrepreneurship for BusinessWeek.




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