Today's IPO Mania Will End in Tears. Here's Why ...

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

I’ve been in this business a long time. Long enough that it’s hard to shock me. But I’m frankly appalled at the kinds of stocks coming out of the Initial Public Offering chute lately. And I have every reason to believe this IPO mania is going to end in tears.

Why? Well, I told you recently about iQIYI (IQ, “C-”). That’s the Chinese video-streaming service that just raised $2.25 billion via a U.S. listing — despite losing money throughout its eight-year existence, including $554 million in 2017, $463 million in 2016 and $410 million in 2015.

But IQ is far from the only money-torching IPO that speculators have gone gaga over. A whopping 120 companies managed to raise just over $35 billion on U.S. stock exchanges through the first half of the year. That puts 2018 on track to be the second-busiest IPO year (besides 2012) since ... drumroll please ... the 2000 peak of the dot-com bubble!

The problem is that we’re not talking about companies with long histories of profitable operations and time-tested business models. We’re talking about companies that are losing money hand over fist!

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Consider this: Thirty-seven IPOs priced in June, according to Edgar Online data. Seven of those were specialized entities called Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs) or Blank Check Companies, rather than traditional firms. One was a gold ETF, and three others didn’t have full-year, comparable financial data available.

But among the remaining 26 IPOs ...

  • Only FOUR actually managed to generate an operating profit in 2017. That means 85% of June’s IPO companies are bleeding red ink.
  • If you add up all the losses generated by the money-losers in 2017 ... then net it out against the profits generated by the handful of winners ... you get a whopping $754 million in overall losses. Three-quarters of a billion bucks!
  • The abhorrent results didn’t just stem from a bad year for one or two firms, either. Every single one of 2017’s losers that provided data for 2016 also lost money that year!

Among the latest IPO crop are many smaller, unproven tech and biotech companies like HyreCar (HYRE, Unrated). Its business model revolves around connecting wannabe Uber and Lyft drivers with people who have idle cars they don’t mind renting out to them. The firm managed to raise $12.6 million last month despite the fact it sported operating losses of $800,000 in 2016 and $4.1 million in 2017.

One of the biggest “winners” in the “Who can lose the most money and still go public?” race was DOMO Inc. (DOMO, Unrated). The cloud computing company raised $193 million in June ... despite losing $176 million in fiscal 2018 and $183 million in 2017.

Then there’s the Chinese “used car e-commerce platform” Uxin (UXIN, Unrated). It hauled in $225 million from its IPO, money it could probably use. That’s because it generated the biggest operating losses of all — $270 million in 2017 and $188.5 million in 2016!

Look, this isn’t my first rodeo. I have both personal and professional experience with manias like this one, in part because I worked at a dot-com company in the late 1990s. Mark my words: This IPO bonanza is going to end in tears!

In fact, the process looks like it’s already getting underway. HYRE hit a post-IPO high of around $6.50. It just sank as low as $4.15 on Tuesday. That’s a 36% wipeout! DOMO dropped to the mid-$19s from almost $29, while UXIN fell to $7-and-change from $10.50.

My recommendation: Do NOT get sucked in by breathless IPO-related hype! When Wall Street is peddling this kind of sludge, your best bet is to run away as fast as you can.

Until next time,

Mike Larson

P.S. If you missed my presentation at the MoneyShow Las Vegas, you can access the archived video here. I will also be presenting at the upcoming San Francisco, Toronto, and Dallas events. You can find more information here, if those cities are more convenient to you. Hope to see you there!

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