In a year that saw a terrible Ebola pandemic in Africa and the resurgence of Legionnaire's disease in New York, it's small wonder that life sciences and health-care companies are also leading the way for initial public offerings. Still, it's catching some off guard--particularly those who are bullish on the tech sector.

For 2015, a year in which volatility has returned to the stock market, with a correction in August that drove the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 13 percent, tech companies accounted for just 11 percent of initial public offerings. Meanwhile health-care stocks represented 44 percent of new IPOs. That's according to new data from IPO researcher Renaissance Capital.

In light of the stock market's recent decline, investors seem increasingly to be giving the tech sector the cold shoulder, with stunning drops in value of once high-flying stocks, among them the micro-blogging site Twitter, whose stock is down more than 50 percent compared to September of 2014. That investor indifference could be a particular problem for any technology company looking to exit via the public markets.

Naturally, the trend hasn't ruffled too many feathers in Silicon Valley, as tech companies are staying private longer--benefitting from the seemingly endless streams of venture capital money in search of the next Facebook or Google. 

As markets turn, however, investors also typically grow cautious and place a greater emphasis on defensive stocks, like health care. And as we all know, the tech sector is looking pretty frothy these says, as company valuations have soared to astronomical heights.

Fast-growth companies like Airbnb and Uber have raked in hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital funding in the past few years, which has pushed their valuations into never-before seen territory for startups. By last count, the apartment share company was valued at $25 billion, while Uber's value stood at more than $50 billion.

When it comes time for an exit, evidence from recent tech IPOs suggest the markets may not support such valuations. In some cases, investors have bid down the value of companies once they go public. Cloud storage company Box is one example.

To be sure, biotech is hardly immune from the valuation frenzy. Big pharmaceutical companies have invested billions of dollars in recent years into promising companies whose products are still in pre-clinical phases. Such companies raised $2.3 billion in 126 deals in the second quarter of 2015, a 21 percent increase in deal dollar value compared to the second quarter of 2014, according to PricewaterhouseCooper's most recent Moneytree report on the sector.

Cancer drug company Juno Therapeutics, which took in $145 million from Amazon's Jeff Bezos and other investors in 2014 is but one example. The company went public, also in 2014, at a $2.7 billion valuation.

Until recently, the market had supported high valuations for both sectors because they contain companies that can introduce extremely innovative products. The tide seems to be turning on tech, however, as the valuations are trending higher than in biotech.

What does all this mean for you? If you have a health care company, now may be your moment--particularly if your company is in biotech or medical devices.

For more insight, here's a look at some of the numbers year to date, by Renaissance's reckoning:

  • 131 IPOS have raised $22 billion, which amounts to nearly a third fewer filings compared to the same time period in 2014, and about equivalent to activity in 2013 for the same time period.
  • Technology company IPOs are at the lowest level since 2008, and the sector has the worst rate of return of any industry group, with an average negative four percent return relative to first-day debuts.
  • Roughly one third of new health care IPOs are in biotech.
  • Health care companies represent a third of companies of the 122 companies in the IPO pipeline, and 60 percent of new filings in August.
Published on: Sep 11, 2015