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STRATEGY

IPOs Back on the Rise

More venture-backed companies are turning to the stock market, as opposed to mergers and acquisitions.
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Venture-backed companies raised more than $2 billion through 17 initial public offerings in the first three months of the year, an increase of 70 percent in IPOs from the first quarter of 2006, the National Venture Capital Association  reported on Monday.

At the same time, just 62 venture-backed firms entered into merger or acquisition deals, compared to 104 during the same quarter last year, the New York-based trade group said.

Those differences could mark a "subtle shift" in the exit mix for venture capital, according to Mark Heesen, the group's president.

"There appears to be a crack in the IPO window which changes the psychology of the market," Heesen said in a statement. "In recent quarters, an IPO has not been a viable option for most of these companies. However, the increase in venture-backed IPO registrations is an encouraging sign."

Currently, 44 venture-backed companies are in the registration stage of an IPO with the Securities and Exchange Commission, compared during the first quarter of 2006, the report said.

Recent stock market uncertainties and increased earnings pressure were likely prompting fewer large companies to seek acquisitions, Heesen said. On the upside, that's also resulting in more lucrative M&A deals, he added. Despite the drop in acquisitions, average deal size has increased to $161.2 million, the highest in five years, according to the report.

By sector, just nine high-tech companies  accounted for nearly 67 percent of the $2.09 billion raised by venture-backed IPOs this year, including a $600 million offering from Clearwire, a Washington-based Internet service provider that listed 12 million shares on the Nasdaq for $25 a share -- the largest venture-backed IPO since October 2004, the report said.

The life sciences sector, which includes medical, health, and biotechnology firms, accounted for another seven IPOs, the report said.




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