Investors are taking a wait and see approach to the economy, market watchers say.
Amid growing uncertainties in the economy, just five companies went public in the third quarter, raising $917 million, Hoover's reported this week.
The number of third quarter initial public offerings decreased by 87 percent compared to the same period last year, when 38 companies raised $11.2 billion going public, the Texas-based firm reported.
Tim Walker, an IPO analyst at Hoover's, said the market will likely continue to decline for the rest of the year. Normally, nearly one-third of IPOs in a given year are issued in November and December, he said.
'In that kind of environment, there's no reason for IPOs to come forward,' he said. 'It's a lot harder if you were an underwriter to take that kind of risk in the uncertainty that we're seeing today.'
Walker said the industry plunged to a similar low in 2003 and rebounded one year later. But he cautioned that the current economic climate is unprecedented, making it difficult for industry watchers to predict a recovery within the next few years.
'I really think we're in uncharted waters here,' Walker said. 'There's a huge question mark hanging over us. Are we going into a recession and are we going into a depression? If we are, all bets are off.'
Recent IPOs were mostly issued by larger, more established firms, rather than smaller, VC-backed ones, he said.
Rick Stover, chief technical officer at Energy-Recovery, one of the five companies that went public over the last quarter, said private funding was critical to his firm's IPO success.
'My understanding is that, had we been venture-backed, the expectations for returns would have been on a shorter timeline,' he said.
Most IPOs rely on credit financing. With the credit markets stalled, securing a favorable hearing from investors is becoming increasingly difficult, Walker said.
'Now is the time to sit tight, save your money, and build your business internally," he said. "And when the time comes, if the IPO window is back open, you could stand to do very well.'