The 25 Biggest U.S. IPOs of All Time
Initial public offerings (IPOs) are the process companies use to tap the public stock markets for capital.
Initial public offerings (IPOs) are the process companies use to tap the public stock markets for capital. They usually involve early-stage businesses that are looking for fresh fuel for growth; many are small opportunities, but a few have mammoth potential.
IPOs aren’t guaranteed tickets to riches, as implosions such as Pets.com and Webvan proved. But they can produce explosive returns, and in a hurry. Through the end of September, 38 offerings had produced returns of 50% or more. One thing 2018 has lacked, however, is the mega-deal – an offering such as Facebook (FB) or Alibaba (BABA) that sets the world on fire. That should change in 2019.
Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of ride-hailing service Uber, says the company expects to execute an IPO next year. “Uber is a widely known brand that connects with millions of consumers and they have also received large amounts of capital from investors over the years,” says Scott Coyle, CEO of ClickIPO, an online platform that allows retail investors to purchase IPOs. No wonder then, that The Wall Street Journal reported that proposals from Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley valued the company at more than $120 billion. Given that IPOs often raise about 10% to 15% of their projected worth, that could be a $12 billion-$18 billion raise.
Where would that rank among America’s biggest IPOs? Today we’ll look back on the 25 biggest deals in U.S. history, as measured by money raised.
Data is as of Oct. 18, 2018. IPO deal data provided by IPOScoop.com LLC, which is an independent news and research firm for public offerings. Stocks listed in reverse order of money raised in the IPO.
25. Citizens Financial Group
- IPO date: Sept. 24, 2014
- Amount raised in IPO: $3.0 billion
- Offer price: $21.50 per share
Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) paid $440 million for Citizens Financial Group (CFG, $34.92) in 1998 in a bid to expand into the U.S. market. But the global financial crisis of 2007-08 disrupted the company’s ambitions. The British government, which owned roughly 80% of RBS as the result of a $42 billion bailout, pushed for a Citizens spinoff.
At the time, the bank was the 13th largest in the U.S. at $130 billion in assets, employing more than 18,000 employees across roughly 1,230 branches in 11 states, primarily in the New England, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions.
The IPO was a difficult sell. Interest rates were at historically low levels that made it difficult for banks to generate robust profits, and the U.S. economy’s rebound still was viewed as sluggish. The initial price range for the offering was $23 to $25 per share, and Citizens only fetched $21.50. Shares did perk up a bit on the first day of trading, but only by about 7%.
The U.S. economy (and interest rates) eventually perked up, however, bolstering bank stocks. Citizens’ stock has grown by 62% from its IPO price, versus about 43% gains for the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index.
24. China Life Insurance
- IPO date: Dec. 11, 2003
- Amount raised in IPO: $3.0 billion
- Offer price: $18.68
Mao Zedong’s government set up the People’s Insurance Company of China (PICC) within a few weeks of taking control of China in 1949. But as the country moved further toward capitalism in the 1990s, PICC was restructured, dissolved and then replaced by four other state-owned companies, including China Life Insurance (LFC, $10.75).
China Life was the largest life insurance in the country when it came public in late 2003. It had a massive distribution network of exclusive agents and boasted 44 million policies in effect, good for about 45% market share. Its 2003 earnings came to about $547 million.
Investors were eager to get a piece of the IPO because they saw it as a way to participate in the strong growth in the Chinese economy, whose GDP was expanding by 8% to 9% annually at the time.
LFC’s shares jumped by 29% on their first day of trading, and the bullishness would continue, with the stock jumping from its offer price of $18.68 to a high of $35.58 by 2007. But the financial crisis harshly impacted shares, which plunged to as low as $11.15 by the very next year. Since then, China Life has had a difficult time getting traction thanks to competition and low interest rates. In fact, anyone that bought at the offer price is sitting on a substantial loss right now.
23. Charter Communications
- IPO date: Nov. 9, 1999
- Amount raised in IPO: $3.2 billion
- Offer price: $19.00
Microsoft (MSFT) co-founder Paul Allen, who recently passed away, spent $2.5 billion in cash in July 1998 to acquire Charter Communications (CHTR, $318.10). He then merged the company with another of his cable holdings, Marcus Cable, which he purchased for $2.8 billion earlier in the year. His vision was that cable companies would become the center of the Internet revolution because of high-bandwidth fiber, calling it the “wired world.”
Allen also capitalized on the booming IPO market by taking Charter Communications public in late 1999. At the time, Charter was the No. 4 cable operator in the U.S., with 6.2 million subscribers, and its offering was the largest deal in the history of cable. Shares popped by 31% on their first day of trading.
Charter did face one massive problem: an escalating debt load that reached unsustainable levels by 2009, forcing the company to restructure under Chapter 11 bankruptcy. That allowed Charter to wipe out a slug of debt, however, and the company began wheeling and dealing in the years to come, including buying Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.
Today, Charter is a nearly $84 billion company that boasts more than 26 million customers across 41 states.
- IPO date: Oct. 13, 1999
- Amount raised in IPO: $3.3 billion
- Offer price: $25.60
The Finnish government created the Finnish Telegraph Agency – the country’s telecom operator – in 1917. But in the 1990s, the government realized changes were necessary, including privatizing the telecom, which changed its name to Sonera.
The 1999 IPO – which still left the Finnish government with roughly 58% control – was underwhelming, however. Shares generated a mere 3.5% gain on their opening day of trade.
The key driver behind any growth in Sonera was the mobile market. Finland, as a reminder, was home of one of the world’s largest handset manufacturers at the time, Nokia (NOK), and roughly 65% of Sonera’s revenues came from mobile.
However, in the couple years following Sonera’s offering, growth proved difficult, the company faced burgeoning costs to build a next-generation network and the dot-com bust was having an adverse impact across the technology space. All these factors led Sonera to merge with Swedish telecom operator Telia (TLSNY) in 2002.
The move added scale, and over time, the merged entity was able to grow even more via acquisitions. Now, Telia is the leading mobile, fixed-voice and broadband company in the Nordic and Baltic regions, with a combined subscriber base of 23.1 million.
- IPO date: March 2, 2017
- Amount raised in IPO: $3.4 billion
- Offer price: $17.00
Stanford students Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy founded Snap (SNAP, $6.81) in September 2011. The company was based around the Snapchat social media app, which stood out because of its feature that made pictures and messages disappear after a very short time.
The app quickly caught fire, drawing in millions of (mostly younger) users. Facebook’s Mark Zuckeberg even thought so much of the opportunity that he offered $3 billion to buy the company in 2013. However, Spiegel and Murphy wanted to control their own destinies and eventually took Snap public in April 2017.
SNAP stock soared by 44% on its first day of trading, making the co-founders billionaires overnight. Interest was high: The company, after all, was reporting a major ramp in revenues when it went public – including growth from $58.7 million in 2015 to $404.5 million in 2016. However, those massive 2016 revenues still resulted in a $514.6 million net loss.
Snap’s life as a public company has mostly been a disappointment. The company continues to suffer nine-digit quarterly net losses, and Instagram – which Facebook purchased in 2012 – has cramped Snap’s user base, which actually declined in the second quarter of 2018. SNAP shares, meanwhile, are off 60% from their offering price of $17.
20. China Petroleum & Chemical
- IPO date: Oct. 19, 2000
- Amount raised in IPO: $3.5 billion
- Offer price: $20.65
The year that state-owned China Petroleum & Chemical (SNP, $81.31) – commonly known as Sinopec – went public, it was China’s second largest oil firm, behind PetroChina (PTR). But the government wanted to modernize the operation and raise capital for growth, so it took the company public.
The IPO drew heavy interest from Big Oil, with Exxon Mobil (XOM), BP Amoco – now just BP plc (BP) – and Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.B) collectively acquiring 47.5% of the offering. And shares were listed in the U.S., London and Hong Kong. But despite the institutional excitement, the first-day performance was a muted gain of just 0.48%.
However, a cheap valuation drew bargain hunters into the stock, which would double in just a few years. And in fact, since its IPO, shares have more than quintupled, including a 13-for-10 stock split in 2015. The company continues to do well today; it produced $6.2 billion in net income for the first half of 2018 – a record half-year profit for the company.
19. Agere Systems
- IPO date: Feb. 28, 2001
- Amount raised in IPO: $3.6 billion
- Offer price: $6.00
Wall Street initially seemed interested when Lucent filed for an initial public offering of its Agere Systems unit, an optoelectronic components company. However, the initial price range of $12 to $14 per share eventually waned to an offering price of just $6. Even then, demand was soft, with shares rising a meager 2 cents per share on their first day of trading.
For context: Dot-com mania had recently ended, which led to severe cutbacks in IT spending. Lucent also moved more than $2.5 billion of its debt to Agere, and the company even issued an earnings warning prior to its IPO.
Looking back, it’s incredible that the deal even got done.
However, brave investors that bought the shares early and held on were plenty rewarded. Five years later, Agere sold itself to rival LSI Logic for $22.81 per share in LSI stock – a roughly 280% return for its believers.
18. Goldman Sachs
- IPO date: May 4, 1999
- Amount raised in IPO: $3.7 billion
- Offer price: $53.00
Investment bank Goldman Sachs (GS, $224.95) was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the roaring 1990s bull market. The company underwrote many of the era’s high-profile offerings, plus it had lucrative businesses in asset management, M&A advisory and trading.
However, the company’s own initial attempt at an IPO in 1998 had to be withdrawn because of uncertainty stemming from the Asian financial crisis. But a year later, when the markets got back into gear, Goldman successfully executed a deal and saw its shares jump 33% on their first day of trading.
The IPO minted quite a few fortunes; Goldman Sachs’ 221 partners had an average of more than $63 million in stock holdings.
Goldman (like many other companies) felt some pain after the dot-com bubble burst, but the firm quickly found its footing, with shares nearly quadrupling from the low $60s to the low $240s … before the financial crisis and bear market erased all those gains, plunging shares back into the $60s.
But Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) made a $5 billion bet on the company in 2008 that served as a much-needed stamp of approval. GS hit all-time highs earlier in 2018, and Buffett even added to his stake this year.
- IPO date: June 22, 1998
- Amount raised in IPO: $3.7 billion
- Offer price: $34.22
Dutch engineering firm GEC-Alsthom NV made some changes to its messaging before going public in 1998, including a new logo and a new, simpler name – Alstom (ALSMY, $4.31).
The company was co-owned by General Electric Company (of the U.K.) and large telecom equipment maker Alcatel. Alstom’s business segments included telecom, power generation and power-transmission equipment. But perhaps the most notable part of the company was its high-speed train systems, which include Eurostar – the serve that connects London to several continental European countries via the Channel Tunnel.
The IPO market was red-hot in the late 1990s, but Alstom’s deal received a tepid response, and shares quickly fell below their offer price. That was something of an omen: In 2003, the company almost had to file for bankruptcy. Alstom reported a $149.5 billion full-year loss that stemmed from a gas-turbine design flaw, and it was being crushed by a mountain of debt. To shore up operations, the government provided a $3 billion bailout plan that included protracted negotiations with the European Union.
Alstom ended up selling its power business to General Electric (GE) for $14 billion in 2015. The remaining company trades on the pink sheets as ALSMY.
One note of interest: One of the French government advisers on the GE deal was Emmanuel Macron, who would go on to become president in 2017.
16. HCA Holdings
- IPO date: March 10, 2011
- Amount raised in IPO: $3.8 billion
- Offer price: $30.00
Hospital operator HCA Healthcare (HCA, $136.37) first went public in 1969 as Hospital Corporation of America. From there, the company focused on an aggressive M&A strategy to consolidate the industry – ultimately becoming the dominant player in the industry. By the late 1980s, management took the company private, then initiated another IPO in 1992.
The back-and-forth dealmaking continued in 2006, when KKR & Co. (KKR) bought HCA out for $21 billion. Just five years later, KKR would flip the company back into public markets.
There were some notable issues with the offering, which occurred with the name HCA Holdings. There was a heavy debt load of about $27 billion and uncertainty around Medicare regulations. But thanks to HCA’s relatively stable cash flows, Wall Street remained receptive to the offering.
The company, which now spans 178 hospitals and 119 free-standing surgery centers across 20 states and the U.K., changed its name to HCA Healthcare in 2017. It’s unquestionably a winner: HCA’s shares have more than quadrupled from their $30 offer price.
15. Travelers Property
- IPO date: March 22, 2002
- Amount raised in IPO: $3.9 billion
- Offer price: $18.50
- The Travelers Companies’ (TRV, $125.14) roots go all the way back to 1864, when it provided travel insurance for customers of the railroad – a risky method of transit in those days. The company has been a pioneer ever since, becoming the first to offer policies for automobiles, commercial airlines and space travel.
Primerica acquired Travelers in 1993, first keeping the name, then tweaking it to The Travelers Group. It later merged with Citicorp to become Citigroup (C). However, the merger process was a rocky one, and Travelers was spun off in 2002 in what at the time was the largest insurance offering.
The company has bulked up via acquisitions ever since its 2002 offering, including a $16.4 billion merger with The St. Paul Companies, using the St. Paul name until 2007, when it switched to The Travelers Companies – and the popular red-umbrella logo most people know it by today.
Today, TRV is a roughly $34 billion company that’s tops in homeowners insurance writing through independent agents and top-three in personal insurance.
14. Blackstone Group
- IPO date: June 21, 2007
- Amount raised in IPO: $4.1 billion
- Offer price: $31.00
A key to the success for the Blackstone Group (BX, $35.30), a private equity firm, has been its ability to anticipate major market cycles. So it should surprise nobody that Blackstone’s IPO was impeccably timed.
Blackstone went public near the peak of the private-equity boom, and a year before the financial crisis took hold.
The IPO was a big-time payday for the firm’s co-founders; CEO Stephen Schwarzman snagged $677 million, while Peter Peterson pulled down a cool $1.9 billion.
Blackstone Group has continued to be dominant in the PE world, boasting $439 billion in assets under management as of Q2 2018. Share performance has been underwhelming, gaining only about 14% from the IPO price, though investors have reaped considerable dividends since then, too.
- IPO date: Oct. 22, 1998
- Amount raised in IPO: $4.4 billion
- Offer price: $23.00
In 1875, Isaac Elder Blake founded Continental Oil and Transportation Company, which was focused on oil, kerosene and other chemical products. He sold Continental to Standard Oil in 1884, but it was spun off in 1911 as part of a monopoly breakup.
Over the years, the company bulked up via acquisitions and eventually changed its name to Conoco. DuPont eventually acquired the company during the go-go 1980s takeover era, taking advantage of shares that were depressed because of a plunge in oil prices. But the companies weren’t a good fit, and Conoco was once again shed off, via an IPO.
The 1998 offering raised $4.4 billion – a record at the time. When Conoco went public, it was the sixth-largest oil company in the U.S., boasting a network of 7,900 gas stations.
Conoco eventually merged with Phillips Petroleum to form ConocoPhilips (COP, $72.59). The company today is the world’s largest independent exploration and production company (by production and proven reserves), with operations in 17 countries.
12. CIT Group
- IPO date: July 2, 2002
- Amount raised in IPO: $4.6 billion
- Offer price: $23.00
Conglomerate Tyco bought top business lender CIT in 2001, then tried unsuccessfully to sell it back off in early 2002. So, management switched gears and spinned it off with an IPO instead.
Wall Street wasn’t very enthusiastic about the CIT Group (CIT, $48.34) deal, in part because Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski had abruptly resigned a month earlier over reports he was being investigated over dodging taxes. The IPO priced below its original range, and the shares fell by 4% on their first day of trading. Still, the offering raised a hefty $4.6 billion … most of which was used to pay down Tyco’s massive debt load, which it accumulated because of an aggressive M&A spree.
The company eventually had to file for bankruptcy in late 2009 amid the financial crisis, and shareholders were wiped out. But CIT Group remained, albeit with a massive restructuring. Today, CIT Group is a Fortune 1000 company with about $50 billion in assets.
11. China Unicom
- IPO date: June 21, 2000
- Amount raised in IPO: $4.9 billion
- Offer price: $19.99
By summer 2000, American markets were under intense pressure from the dot-com bubble burst, but that didn’t deter Chinese telecom company China Unicom (CHU, $11.12). The company pulled off a $4.9 billion deal – at the time, the largest by a Chinese company – to list on the New York Stock Exchange, and even managed to gain 12% on its first day. (Shares also were offered in Hong Kong.)
China Unicom, the second largest telecom company in China at the time, was a division of state-run China United Telecommunications. CHU held about 14% market share, including strong footprints in Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin. Half of its revenues came from paging.
The IPO hasn’t been a good long-term holding, however. The stock’s price has retreated 44% from their offering price of $19.99.
- IPO date: March 13, 2000
- Amount raised in IPO: $5.2 billion
- Offer price: $33.92
In 2000, German chipmaker Infineon Technologies (IFNNY, $20.78) wanted to get a piece of the dot-com action in the U.S. – and it worked. The deal was the second-biggest for a German company – second only to Deutsche Telekom (DTEGY) – and shares more than doubled, to $70 per share from a $33.92 offering price.
Infineon was a division of old-line industrial operator Siemens (SI) and was ranked No. 10 in the world among chipmakers, in terms of total sales. Siemens, by the way, had enjoyed dealmaking success a year earlier with an IPO of its Epcos division.
Infineon Technologies delisted from the New York Stock Exchange in 2007, but still trades on the Frankfurt Exchange, as well as over-the-counter in the U.S. It has a strong footprint in key markets such as self-driving vehicles and the Internet of Things. Its power and smart card ICs are No. 1 in market share, and the company is No. 2 in automotive semiconductor market share.
9. United Parcel Service
- IPO date: Nov. 10, 1999
- Amount raised in IPO: $5.5 billion
- Offer price: $50.00
In 1907, James Casey created American Messenger Company, which offered parcel and special-mail service primarily by foot and bicycle. However, it upgraded its “fleet” with its first Ford Model T in 1913, and six years later, it took on the name we know it by now: United Parcel Service (UPS, $114.73).
UPS built a massive business without much need for outside capital. In fact, UPS didn’t go public until 1999 – compare that to rival FedEx (FDX), which was founded in 1971 and went public in 1978.
Demand for the UPS IPO was so robust that the deal had to be delayed by 45 minutes. Shares ended their first day of trading up $36%. And unlike many offerings, employees collected a nice windfall – they collectively owned about a third of the company’s shares.
The actual performance of UPS has been a little above-average, with gains of about 130% from its listing price versus 102% for the S&P 500.
8. Telecom Eireann
- IPO date: July 8, 1999
- Amount raised in IPO: $5.5 billion
- Offer price: $15.99
- Telecom Eireann, the largest telecom company in Ireland, wasn’t well-known in the U.S. but still produced a nice offering in New York, as well as London and Dublin. Institutional demand for the offering was about 12 times the number of shares offered, and the stock rose more than 20% on its debut.
Telecom Eireann was owned by the Irish government, which allocated a hefty 55% of the stock to individual investors. More than 500,000 people, or over 20% of Ireland’s adult population– 60% of whom were first-time investors – joined in.
The company, which was renamed Eircom, still was relatively small among the world’s telecom giants at the time, with 1.5 million phone lines and 645,000 mobile customers.
The company split into two divisions in 2000 – a mobile business and a fixed-line business. The mobile division sold out a year later to Vodafone (VOD) and a consortium of buyers.
7. Kraft Foods
- IPO date: June 13, 2001
- Amount raised in IPO: $8.7 billion
- Offer price: $31.00
Philip Morris International (PM), which had purchased Nabisco in 2000, spun off Kraft Foods in 2001, using much of the offering’s proceeds to pay down debt from the acquisition.
Kraft Foods at the time had a nice portfolio of brands, including Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, Maxwell House, Philadelphia Cream Cheese, Oreo cookies and Oscar Mayer. It also had an interesting leadership structures that included co-CEOs, and Philip Morris’ CEO was the chairman.
Nonetheless, the IPO spurred little investor interest, with shares rising just 1% on their first day of trading.
In 2012, Kraft announced it would split off its North American grocery business as Kraft Foods Group, with the remaining snack-foods company to be renamed Mondelez International (MDLZ). Three years later, Kraft Foods Group merged with Heinz to become Kraft Heinz (KHC, $55.54) in a deal facilitated by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway and global investment firm 3G Capital.
6. AT&T Wireless Group
- IPO date: April 27, 2000
- Amount raised in IPO: $10.6 billion
- Offer price: $29.50
The AT&T Wireless IPO came at the peak of the dot-com boom, as parent company AT&T wanted to capitalize on the frenzy. The deal was done by issuing “tracking stock.” This tracking stock essentially trades based on the performance of a company’s division, but doesn’t require the company to yield any control of the unit or spin off the division’s actual operations.
AT&T Wireless was growing at a fast pace, as were other mobile companies including Sprint (S) and Nextel. Revenues spiked by 41% year-over-year to $7.6 billion in 1999 and boasted 12 million subscribers. So no one was surprised when AT&T raised a then-record $10.6 billion, a year after UPS’ $5.5 billion raise.
AT&T Wireless eventually sold out to Cingular Wireless – itself a joint venture between SBC Communications and BellSouth, which were broken off from the original AT&T – in 2004 for $41 billion. SBC eventually took on the AT&T brand as AT&T Inc. (T, $32.50).
5. General Motors
- IPO date: Nov. 18, 2010
- Amount raised in IPO: $15.8 billion
- Offer price: $33.00
- General Motors (GM, $31.08) has a rich history dating back to 1908, spanning iconic brands (current and defunct) such as Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC, Pontiac, Hummer, Saturn and Opel.
However, it was not immune to the financial crisis, and it in fact succumbed in June 2009, when it filed for bankruptcy. This included a $50 billion bailout from the federal government that sparked the nickname “Government Motors.”
But GM was able to get its house in order. The company worked aggressively to cut costs, streamline operations, revamp the lineup and invest more in the Chinese market. The result? General Motors was able to launch a successful IPO a couple years later. It reduced its obligations to the U.S. government by $22 billion (and fully paid off the government by 2015), and it made a $4.7 billion profit in 2011 – its first positive annual earnings since 2004.
The stock, on a price basis, is actually in the red since its IPO. But that has created an income opportunity for new money, with shares yielding 4.9% as of this writing.
- IPO date: May 18, 2012
- Amount raised in IPO: $16.0 billion
- Offer price: $38.00
There was plenty of drama in the lead-up to the Facebook (FB, $154.92) IPO. Facebook’s prospectus noted that user-base growth likely would slow. The mobile side of the business was lagging. And CEO Mark Zuckerberg didn’t win any friends when he wore a hoodie to his investor presentation, leading many to believe he had a lackadaisical attitude toward the process.
The day-of was no better. Facebook’s deal pricing was delayed because of a Nasdaq glitch that resulted in roughly $500 million in losses across numerous Facebook investors.
The situation got worse in the next few months, as Facebook plunged below $20 per share.
Zuckeberg didn’t flinch. He swiftly focused on investing in mobile, including upgrading the original Facebook app and also making deals for image-based social media company Instagram and messaging service WhatsApp. Facebook more than recovered, hitting an all-time high above $218 earlier this year – a roughly 475% return on the original price.
The social media giant is facing new challenges, including a slowdown of its growth ramp, privacy issues and cybersecurity weaknesses. But it’s still one of the 10 largest companies trading on U.S. markets – not bad for a company that’s only been around since 2004.
3. Enel SpA
- IPO date: Nov. 2, 1999
- Amount raised in IPO: $16.5 billion
- Offer price: $45.23
Italian utility company Enel SpA (ENLAY, $4.89) had a few things weigh on its IPO – namely, it was a utility (which doesn’t tend to gin up excitement), and it was a foreign operation, which also tends to hurt interest.
Wall Street’s reception was an unsurprising yawn. Yes, Enel became the largest publicly traded utility in the world, but the company’s shares barely budged on their first day of trading, crawling ahead by just 0.33%.
Another interesting wrinkle: Enel was state-owned. The Italian government actually used the deal to bolster its treasury, as part of a wide-scale policy of privatization and attempting to adopt the euro.
But while the Enel IPO was the second-largest deal raise in U.S. market history, the stock never got much traction. By 2007, management chose to delist from the NYSE because of low trading volumes.
- IPO date: March 18, 2008
- Amount raised in IPO: $17.9 billion
- Offer price: $44.00
On March 16, JPMorgan Chase (JPM) agreed to buy Bear Stearns in March 2008 for a mere $2 per share – a 93% discount to the prior close (and a price that eventually would be moved up to $10 per share) – in a deal that involved a $30 billion loan from the Federal Reserve. It sent shockwaves across Wall Street, as investors started to worry about America’s largest financial institutions.
This was the environment Visa (V, $139.29) had to contend with when, a couple days later, it pulled off its IPO.
This was a gutsy move by management, who wanted to make a statement that Visa was in solid financial condition. Visa operated the world’s largest payments system and was owned by about 13,000 financial institutions. At the time, it had about 1.5 billion cards in use, compared to 916 million for rival MasterCard (MA). And Wall Street cheered the offering, driving V shares up 28% on their opening day.
Anyone willing to invest in Visa during this time is doing cartwheels today. Visa’s stock has jumped by roughly 1,160% from the offer price, including a 4-for-1 split in 2015.
- IPO date: Sept. 19, 2014
- Amount raised in IPO: $21.8 billion
- Offer price: $68.00
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba (BABA, $142.02) launched in April 1999 with 18 founders including charismatic leader Jack Ma. Ma, a former English teacher, had little business or technology experience, but he did have a compelling vision: to create a massive marketplace where Chinese businesses could sell their wares in China as well as global markets.
Alibaba’s early days were challenging – funding was difficult to come by as tech companies were folding left and right in the dot-com bubble bust – the company still got traction and eventually built a powerful ecosystem. By the time it launched its 2014 IPO, the company was earning roughly $3.8 billion in annual net income, from 279 million active buyers.
Alibaba’s business has since spread to other areas such as cloud computing, digital media and even self-driving vehicles. That has driven a roughly 110% return in just four years, and turned Alibaba into one of the 10 largest U.S.-traded stocks by market cap.
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