Testing the Waters: What It Means in an IPO

Testing the Waters: What It Means in an IPO

Testing the waters in the initial public offering (IPO) process allows companies and related parties that are looking at going public to gauge how successful their prospective IPO would be — without going through the actual process of going public.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) voted in 2019 to adopt a new rule to allow companies interested in going public to test the waters (TTW). Specifically, the SEC formally rolled out Rule 163B under the Securities Act on December 3, 2019.

The IPO process can be long, costly, and risky for some companies, and thus some companies can be reluctant to try going public. But the ability to test the waters by communicating with potential investors, gauging their interest, and examining how an IPO would be received, is valuable before having to go all-in on a public offering.

Key Points

•   Testing the Waters (TTW) is an SEC rule that allows companies to gauge the success of a prospective IPO without going through the actual process.

•   The JOBS Act of 2012 allowed small businesses to communicate with Qualified Institutional Buyers (QIBs) and Institutional Accredited Investors (IAIs).

•   Testing the Waters allows companies to assess investor interest, explain the direction of the company, and strengthen areas of weakness.

•   The expanded rule for all issuers allows for greater transparency and communication between IPO-hopeful and the markets, as well as investors.

•   Investors have access to additional information about a company’s expected IPO and more time to decide whether to invest.

Testing the Waters During the IPO Process

Starting in 2012, testing the waters was available only for emerging growth companies, also known as EGCs. In 2019, testing the waters was extended to all issuers to increase the chance of a company successfully completing an initial public offering (IPO), and to encourage issuers to enter the public equity markets.

So, what does testing the waters mean, and how does it work? In effect, testing the waters is a way for issuers to dip their toes in the water, so to speak, and gauge the temperature before fully jumping into the IPO process.

When the new SEC rule was proposed and adopted in September 2019, Chairman Jay Clayton said, “Investors and companies alike will benefit from test-the-waters communications, including increasing the likelihood of successful public securities offerings.”

Details of the TTW rule

The TTW rule allows issuers to assess market interest in a possible IPO (or other registered securities offering) by being able to discuss the IPO with certain institutional investors before, or after, the filing of a registration statement.

Generally, issuers set up TWW meetings with investors after the issuer has filed with the SEC. They could potentially speak with specific issuers before filing with the SEC, but issuers typically want to align on the first round of SEC comments and then have a clear direction when speaking with potential investors.

Example of Testing the Waters

In late spring of 2022, a tech company that created a platform for grocery delivery, decided to test the waters for a potential IPO.

There were good reasons for the company to be cautious. The market had seen a steep drop since the beginning of the year, and investors had largely cooled on tech stocks, with IPOs taking a noticeable hit year-over-year.

Thanks to taking this step, the company was projected to IPO by the end of 2022, using the interim period to adjust their valuation and their path forward, given the competition in the space.

To sum it up, testing the waters allows companies to see what investors say, answer questions, and potentially identify areas of weakness that could be strengthened.

💡 Quick Tip: Access to IPO shares before they trade on public exchanges has usually been available only to large institutional investors. That’s changing now, and some brokerages offer pre-listing IPO investing to qualified investors.

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Purpose of Testing the Waters

Testing the waters has two chief aims: The first is communicating with potential investors to explain the direction of the company and gathering their feedback. The second is to evaluate the market before having to invest large sums in an actual IPO.


💡Quick Tip: How do you decide if a certain trading platform or app is right for you? Ideally, the investment platform you choose offers the features that you need for your investment goals or strategy, e.g., an easy-to-use interface, data analysis, educational tools.

Communication with Potential Investors

In addition to giving issuers a chance to see whether their offering will be successful, TWW allows companies to communicate highly specific information.

Some industries call for greater detail of information from investors, which makes testing the waters ever more critical.

For example, in the life sciences industry, testing the waters is popular because issuers tend to have a shorter operating history and also need to communicate detailed scientific information to their potential investors. For these types of industries and issuers, testing the waters is highly beneficial.

Cost-Effective Market Evaluation

Testing the waters allows issuers to determine whether it makes sense for them to devote the time and resources to filing an IPO. Before the TWW rule, many companies avoided the IPO process because of the cost and not having clarity around investor demand.

Testing the waters takes away some of those risks and provides more information as a company enters the IPO. In a sense, it allows for a company to evaluate the market, and for the market, in turn, to evaluate the company exploring an IPO.

What the JOBS Act Meant for Testing the Waters

In 2012, Congress under President Obama passed the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (also known as the JOBS Act) to revitalize the small business sector. The JOBS Act, which created Section 5(d) of the Securities Act, made it easier for small businesses, also known as emerging growth companies or EGCs, to gain access to funding. It removed certain barriers to capital and reduced regulation.

The enactment of the JOBS Act also allowed small businesses to communicate with potential investors — qualified institutional buyers (also known as QIBs) and institutional accredited investors (or IAIs). By communicating with potential investors before or after filing a registration statement, EGCs were given the ability to get a sense for interest in a potential offering.

With the expansion of that rule in 2019 to include all issuers, not just EGCs, more opportunity opened up for a range of businesses.

What Does This Mean for Investors?

While it makes good business sense to expand regulations and allow all businesses considering an IPO to test the waters, just what does this all mean for the average retail investor?

First, the expanded test-the-waters rule for all issuers allows companies more flexibility when determining whether to move forward with an IPO. So for investors, the expanded rule means that they have access to communication from issuers regarding upcoming IPOs. They also have more time to determine whether it’s the right investment for them.

This can be valuable for retail investors, who may benefit from having additional information about a company’s expected IPO. Investing in IPO stock can be highly risky, as IPO shares are typically quite volatile.

In short: Testing the waters gives more flexibility to both issuers and investors.

Investing in IPO Stocks

IPOs have been popular among investors and certain IPOs can generate excitement in the investor community. Prices on the day of an IPO and immediately afterward tend to produce volatile price movements, which can produce large gains or losses. Luckily, the 2019 SEC rule that allows any company to test the waters before committing to the IPO process is a boon to businesses as well as investors.

TTW, as the rule is known, allows for greater transparency and communication between the IPO-hopeful and the markets, as well as investors, prior to the full-blown IPO process. This enables companies to adjust their strategy for the IPO, and it allows investors to assess whether they want to invest.

Whether you’re curious about exploring IPOs, or interested in traditional stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), you can get started by opening an account on the SoFi Invest® brokerage platform. On SoFi Invest, eligible SoFi members have the opportunity to trade IPO shares, and there are no account minimums for those with an Active Investing account. As with any investment, it's wise to consider your overall portfolio goals in order to assess whether IPO investing is right for you, given the risks of volatility and loss.


Invest with as little as $5 with a SoFi Active Investing account.

FAQ

Is testing the waters an offer?

No, testing the waters is not an offer. Testing the waters in the IPO process allows issuers, which are corporations, investment trusts, etc., to gauge interest and investor demand for a potential IPO without actually having to go public.

What is the post-IPO quiet period?

The quiet period is a set amount of time when the company cannot share promotional publicity, forecasting, or expressing opinions about the value of the company. In an IPO, the quiet period begins when a company files registration with U.S. regulators for 25 days after the stock starts trading — and sometimes longer.

What is an analyst day in an IPO?

When planning to go public, the issuer or company meets with syndicate analysts who do not work for the issuer or the company going public. This type of meeting, also called an “analyst day,” is important because analysts create their own opinion about the issuer. They then help educate the market about the company once the transaction has launched.


Photo credit: iStock/LumiNola

SoFi Invest®
INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE
SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

Investing in an Initial Public Offering (IPO) involves substantial risk, including the risk of loss. Further, there are a variety of risk factors to consider when investing in an IPO, including but not limited to, unproven management, significant debt, and lack of operating history. For a comprehensive discussion of these risks please refer to SoFi Securities’ IPO Risk Disclosure Statement. IPOs offered through SoFi Securities are not a recommendation and investors should carefully read the offering prospectus to determine whether an offering is consistent with their investment objectives, risk tolerance, and financial situation.

New offerings generally have high demand and there are a limited number of shares available for distribution to participants. Many customers may not be allocated shares and share allocations may be significantly smaller than the shares requested in the customer’s initial offer (Indication of Interest). For SoFi’s allocation procedures please refer to IPO Allocation Procedures.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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Going Public vs. Being Acquired

IPO vs Acquisition: Advantages and Disadvantages

An IPO is an initial public offering, when a company makes its shares available for public trading, and it’s quite different from an acquisition. IPOs are synonymous with entering the public market, while an acquisition is typically when a larger company takes over a smaller target company.

What does IPO mean vs. an acquisition for investors? When a company applies for an IPO, it enters into the traditional process to be listed on a public exchange and get funding. In an acquisition, or takeover, the target company may not survive — or it may thrive, but only as part of the newly combined organization.

Investors contemplating companies at these two different stages would do well to think through the benefits and risks.

Key Points

•   IPOs, or Initial Public Offerings, allow private companies to offer shares to the public to raise capital and enhance visibility.

•   An acquisition occurs when one company buys a significant part, or all, of another company, taking control over its assets and operations.

•   IPOs involve going public to raise funds and gain publicity, while acquisitions entail one company taking over another, potentially merging their resources and strategies.

•   IPOs can provide substantial funds and publicity but involve high costs, stringent regulations, and expose companies to market volatility.

•   Acquisitions can foster growth and innovation but may lead to conflicting priorities, strained partnerships, and brand reputation risks.

How IPOs Work

When companies go public, that’s when a private company decides to sell its shares to investors, to raise capital to fund growth opportunities for the company; create more awareness about the company; or to acquire other businesses, among many other possible reasons.

The IPO is the process of selling securities to the public. The company decides how many shares it wants to offer. The price of the company shares are determined by the company’s valuation and the number of shares at listing, and the funds raised by the IPO are considered IPO proceeds.

Once the IPO is approved, the company is then listed on a public stock exchange where qualified investors can buy shares of the IPO stock. Because IPO stock is highly volatile, it can be risky for retail investors to plunge into IPO investing, so doing the usual due diligence for investing in any type of security is wise.

💡 Quick Tip: IPO stocks can get a lot of media hype. But savvy investors know that where there’s buzz there can also be higher-than-warranted valuations. IPO shares might spike or plunge (or both), so investing in IPOs may not be suitable for investors with short time horizons.

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Advantages of Going Public

What are the advantages of going public? There can be many, which is why companies aspire to go through what can be an arduous, time-consuming, and expensive process.

Capital for Investment

The biggest advantage associated with an IPO is fundraising. Once investors start buying IPO stocks, the proceeds from an IPO can be substantial. The company then takes this capital and typically uses it toward internal investments and expansion.

The company can use the funds it raises for research and development, to hire more staff, or expand its operations in other states or countries. There are a variety of ways this new capital can be deployed to benefit the company.

Publicity

In some cases, IPOs generate publicity. This, in turn, can drive more attention to the company and make investors interested in purchasing shares of its stock. IPOs are frequently covered in business news, which adds to the IPO buzz.

However, if there is too much hype, that can contribute to high expectations for the stock, which can also create volatility after the IPO.

Valuation

Some companies that go public can end up having higher valuations. Certainly, that is a hoped-for result of the IPO process. Because the public company has access to more capital and steadily grows its business, the shares of the company can increase in price over time, but they can also lose value — a common occurrence.

Disadvantages of Going Public

What are the disadvantages of going public? There are a series of steps and regulations companies must adhere to in order to have a successful IPO — and the process can be time consuming and difficult.

High Cost

The first factor a company must consider is cost. The company needs to work with an investment bank, which will charge underwriting fees — one of the largest costs associated with an IPO.

Underwriting is mandatory to review the company’s business, management, and overall operations. Legal counsel is also required to help guide the company through the IPO. There are also costs associated with account and financial reporting. Companies will also accrue fees for applying to be listed on the exchange.

Not Enough Information for Investors

From an investor’s perspective, investing in an IPO can also be a challenge. In many cases, individual investors don’t have enough information or historical data on the company’s performance to make a determination on whether an IPO is a sound investment.


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Stock Market Stress

Once a company goes public, it is now part of the public market. This means it is subject to scrutiny, market volatility, and investor sentiment. Every move and decision the company makes, such as a corporate restructuring, merger and acquisition, change in leadership, or release of earnings reports, will be reviewed closely by industry analysts and investors, who will provide their own opinions on whether the company is operating well or not.

While the company’s leadership may not have had to worry about these aspects when it was private, a public company needs to keep these market pressures top of mind.

What Is an Acquisition?

What does it mean for a company to be acquired? Similar to a merger, an acquisition is when one company buys a portion or the whole of another company and all its assets. An acquisition is the process of the acquiring company taking full control of the target company.

If the acquiring company takes more than 50% of the target firm’s shares, this gives the acquiring company control over decision making regarding the target company’s assets. While acquisitions of well-known and larger companies occur and are covered by the news, companies of any size can be the acquiring company or target company.

Advantages of Being Acquired

Being acquired doesn’t have to signal the end of a company — sometimes it can be a lifeline.

Growth

An acquisition can be a strategy for a company to grow into new markets and quickly become a leader in its industry. If the company is working in a competitive landscape, an acquisition helps increase its value and can add to a company gaining more market strength.

Innovation

When one company acquires another, this allows resources and experiences to come together. This may enable the new company to innovate new ideas and strategies that may eventually help grow the company’s earnings. This new partnership can bring together a new team of specialists and experts that can allow the company to develop and reach its goals.

More Capital

When an acquisition occurs, this will increase the cash holdings and assets of the acquiring company and usually allows for more investment in the newly formed company.

Disadvantages of Being Acquired

It’s hard to avoid the negative implications of an acquisition, and investors need to consider these as well.

Conflicting Priorities

In some acquisition scenarios, there may be competing priorities between the two companies that come together. The acquiring company and target company prior to the acquisition were used to working as individual entities. Now, as a newly formed company, both sides must work together to be successful, which is easier said than done. If there isn’t alignment on the goals of the organization as a whole, then there is a possibility that the acquisition may fail, or the transition could be rocky and prolonged.

Pressure on Existing Partnerships

When an acquisition occurs, the newly formed company becomes bigger and it is likely that their goals will grow as well. In the case where the company wants to develop more products to expand into new markets, this could require their suppliers to figure out how they are going to ramp up production to meet the demand.

For example, this could mean the supplier would need more capital to hire staff or purchase additional equipment and supplies to prevent production issues.

Brand Risk

Depending on which companies come together, if one has a poor reputation in their industry, the acquisition could put the other company’s brand at risk. In this case, both of the companies’ identities could be evaluated to decide whether they come together under one brand or are marketed as separate brands.

The Takeaway

Initial public offerings (IPOs) and acquisitions often get a lot of media and investor attention because they can offer opportunities for investors. That said, these two events are quite different.

An IPO is when a private company decides to go public and sell its shares to investors, whereas an acquisition is when a company buys out another, target company. In this case the acquiring company may gain certain market advantages, and the target company will typically lose its decision-making privileges since it is no longer an individual company.

There are a number of pros and cons to IPOs, just as there are advantages and disadvantages to a company being acquired. IPOs can provide a newly minted public company with a lot of growth opportunities — but the IPO process is expensive and time consuming, and being beholden to regulators and investor sentiment is never a picnic.

Acquisitions can be a lifeline to a company that’s struggling in a competitive market. While the takeover can effectively eliminate the target company as an independent entity, its products or brand may continue to exist.

Whether you’re curious about exploring IPOs, or interested in traditional stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), you can get started by opening an account on the SoFi Invest® brokerage platform. On SoFi Invest, eligible SoFi members have the opportunity to trade IPO shares, and there are no account minimums for those with an Active Investing account. As with any investment, it's wise to consider your overall portfolio goals in order to assess whether IPO investing is right for you, given the risks of volatility and loss.

Invest with as little as $5 with a SoFi Active Investing account.

FAQ

Is an acquisition an IPO?

An acquisition is not an IPO. An acquisition is when an acquiring company purchases part of or all of a target company to form one new company.

What is the difference between an IPO and a takeover?

An IPO is when a private company decides to go public and sell its shares to individual investors, whereas a takeover is when a company buys out another company.

Is a takeover the same as an acquisition?

An acquisition can be a takeover. This is when two companies decide to come together and become one entity. All the assets of both companies are now part of a newly formed combined company.


Photo credit: iStock/Yuri_Arcurs

SoFi Invest®
INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE
SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

Investing in an Initial Public Offering (IPO) involves substantial risk, including the risk of loss. Further, there are a variety of risk factors to consider when investing in an IPO, including but not limited to, unproven management, significant debt, and lack of operating history. For a comprehensive discussion of these risks please refer to SoFi Securities’ IPO Risk Disclosure Statement. IPOs offered through SoFi Securities are not a recommendation and investors should carefully read the offering prospectus to determine whether an offering is consistent with their investment objectives, risk tolerance, and financial situation.

New offerings generally have high demand and there are a limited number of shares available for distribution to participants. Many customers may not be allocated shares and share allocations may be significantly smaller than the shares requested in the customer’s initial offer (Indication of Interest). For SoFi’s allocation procedures please refer to IPO Allocation Procedures.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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Shorting an IPO: When Can You Do It?

Shorting an IPO: When Can You Do It?

IPO stocks can be sold short once they are trading on public markets, known as the secondary market.

While traders can sell short IPO shares, investors allocated IPO shares may have to wait for a lock-up period to expire before they can sell.

Selling short an IPO on the listing day also has extra challenges you should know about. This article will cover how it works, when to do it, and any possible complications you might encounter in the process.

Key Points

•   It’s possible to short an IPO once it starts trading on the public market, with some limitations.

•   IPO stocks are heavily regulated and it can be difficult to borrow the shares needed to do a short sale.

•   Investors should do their due diligence before investing in any kind of stock, as there are no guarantees.

Can You Short an IPO?

IPO stocks can be sold short once they are trading on public markets, known as the secondary market. Shorting IPO shares on the listing day can be done, though there are some challenges.

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Shorting a Stock

Shorting a stock is a strategy traders use to profit from a decline in the price of a stock. Any stock available for trading can be shorted. It is risky considering that the stock price can only go to zero — in which case a profit of 100% is realized (not including taxes and commissions). The risk is that the stock price increases. There is no theoretical limit to how high a share price can go.

A short sale happens when you borrow a stock and repay it in the future. The goal is to see the stock drop in value. When you sell short, you buy the shares, immediately sell them, then buy them back later. You want to buy the shares back at a price less than at which you lent them.

There is a fee for borrowing when selling shares short. That cost can be as low as 0.3% (on an annualized basis) for stocks with very little short interest, but it can soar to 30% for hot stocks with extremely high short interest. You might also be required to post collateral to sell short.

For example, let’s say you want to sell short shares of XYZ stock that currently trade at $100 per share. You enter an order to sell short the shares and you receive $100 per share. A month later, the stock price has dropped to $80, and you decide to close your short position by repurchasing the shares in the market. You buy back the shares for $80. Your profit on those stocks is $100 – $80 = $20.


💡 Quick Tip: Investment fees are assessed in different ways, including trading costs, account management fees, and possibly broker commissions. When you set up an investment account, be sure to get the exact breakdown of your “all-in costs” so you know what you’re paying.

Challenges of Shorting an IPO

While shorting an IPO on listing day is allowed, there are practical limitations that could make it difficult.

A critical facet to shorting IPO shares is being able to borrow the shares from a brokerage firm. A broker needs an inventory of stock from which to lend and a company often only takes a small part of the company public, which can limit shorting opportunities. On IPO day, the two primary entities holding an inventory of shares are the underwriting banks and investors (both institutional and retail).

The IPO underwriters cannot lend shares for short sale for 30 days, per U.S. SEC rules. Investors can lend out their shares to investors seeking to short the IPO stock. That said, some shareholders might be unwilling to lend their shares.

IPO stocks are considered high-risk investments, and while some companies may present an opportunity for growth, there are no guarantees. Like investing in any other type of stock, it’s essential for investors to do their due diligence.

The Takeaway

You can short an IPO once it starts trading on the public market. But it’s worth remembering that shorting carries risk and there might be a high cost to borrow shares. In addition, IPO stocks are heavily regulated, which can make it difficult to borrow the shares needed to do a short sale.

Whether you’re curious about exploring IPOs, or interested in traditional stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), you can get started by opening an account on the SoFi Invest® brokerage platform. On SoFi Invest, eligible SoFi members have the opportunity to trade IPO shares, and there are no account minimums for those with an Active Investing account. As with any investment, it's wise to consider your overall portfolio goals in order to assess whether IPO investing is right for you, given the risks of volatility and loss.

Invest with as little as $5 with a SoFi Active Investing account.

FAQ

How soon can you short an IPO?

You can short an IPO once it begins trading on the public stock market. The IPO lock-up period typically lasts from 90 to 180 days. It is intended to prevent too many shares from flooding the market in the early days of the IPO. A high supply of shares could drive down the price of the IPO stock.

Can you sell an IPO immediately?

An investor who purchases shares on the secondary market can sell shares immediately. Investors who were allocated IPO shares have a lock-up period before they can sell. Learn more about selling an IPO.

How long until you can sell an IPO?

A company founder, a longtime employee holding company stock, or an investor allocated IPO shares must wait for the lock-up period to elapse before selling their shares. The IPO lock-up period might last anywhere from 90 to 180 days after the IPO. There might be multiple lock-up periods that end on different dates, too.


Photo credit: iStock/MarsBars

SoFi Invest®
INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE
SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

Investing in an Initial Public Offering (IPO) involves substantial risk, including the risk of loss. Further, there are a variety of risk factors to consider when investing in an IPO, including but not limited to, unproven management, significant debt, and lack of operating history. For a comprehensive discussion of these risks please refer to SoFi Securities’ IPO Risk Disclosure Statement. IPOs offered through SoFi Securities are not a recommendation and investors should carefully read the offering prospectus to determine whether an offering is consistent with their investment objectives, risk tolerance, and financial situation.

New offerings generally have high demand and there are a limited number of shares available for distribution to participants. Many customers may not be allocated shares and share allocations may be significantly smaller than the shares requested in the customer’s initial offer (Indication of Interest). For SoFi’s allocation procedures please refer to IPO Allocation Procedures.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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What is IPO Subscription Status?

What Is IPO Subscription Status?

An IPO subscription status describes the position of a company’s initial public offering (or IPO), as it relates to how many committed investors it has prior to the actual IPO.

For example, an IPO may be “fully subscribed,” “undersubscribed,” or “oversubscribed.”

Many investors are intrigued by IPOs, because it’s an opportunity to put money into a relatively early-stage company that has room to grow over time. Some companies draw more investor interest than others, and the IPO’s subscription status is one way to gauge that, because investors sign up with the intent to purchase a certain number of shares.

A company’s IPO subscription status doesn’t guarantee that the stock will perform one way or another. It’s just a preliminary indicator that may help interested investors navigate a potentially risky investment move.

Key Points

•   An IPO subscription status describes the position of a company’s initial public offering (IPO) with respect to how many committed investors it has before the actual IPO.

•   An IPO is when a company offers shares for sale to members of the general public through a stock exchange.

•   Knowing an IPO’s subscription status can give investors an indication of how much demand there is for shares, and how an IPO stock may perform once it hits the exchanges.

•   Typically, only certain investors can participate in IPO bidding and subscribe to an IPO.

•   Individual investors may not have access to IPO subscriptions in the U.S., but research can help them find the right companies to invest in as they go public.

IPO Review

“IPO” is an acronym that stands for “initial public offering.” It represents the first time that a company offers shares for sale to members of the general public through a stock exchange. Prior to an IPO, you would not be able to find a company’s stock trading on an exchange such as the New York Stock Exchange, for example.

Prior to going through the IPO process, a company is private, and its investors usually include its founders, employees, and venture capitalists. A private company usually decides to go public to attract additional investment.

But it’s the tricky period before an IPO, when a company is still private, that many prospective investors look to make a move and get in early. This is when investors “subscribe” to an IPO, which means they’re agreeing or signaling their intent to buy a company’s stock prior to its IPO.

When the IPO executes, those investors may be able to purchase the number of shares to which they previously agreed. Typically, only certain investors can participate in IPO bidding and subscribe to an IPO.

💡 Quick Tip: Keen to invest in an initial public offering, or IPO? Be sure to check with your brokerage about what’s required. Typically IPO stock is available only to eligible investors.

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IPO Subscription Status Defined

A company’s IPO subscription status refers to how investors have subscribed to a public issue. The goal of an IPO is to sell all of its shares — or, to reach an IPO subscription status of fully subscribed, and a valuation in line with its calculations for pricing its IPO.

In that event, all of a company’s shares are spoken for prior to hitting the exchanges, and any leftover shares won’t see their values reduced in order to attract buyers. Early investors looking to cash out after an IPO typically must wait for the lock-up period to expire before they can sell their shares.

Keep in mind that many IPO stocks in the U.S. are gobbled up by large, institutional investors involved with the IPO’s underwriter. But although the average retail investor is not typically included in an IPO roadshow, they may still be able to buy an IPO stock at its offering price.

Some brokerages have programs that allow qualified investors to request IPO stocks at their offering price, but there’s no guarantee those investors will actually get the shares.

Why IPO Subscription Status Matters

An IPO’s subscription status matters in that it can provide investors a sense of how an IPO stock may perform once it hits the exchanges. That’s pretty important, especially for traders or investors who are looking to earn a profit flipping IPO stocks.

Shows Demand of IPO Shares

Knowing an IPO’s subscription status can give investors an inkling as to how much demand there is for shares — if demand is high (an IPO is fully or oversubscribed), it’s a signal that an IPO stock may gain value after its market debut. But it’s not a guarantee.

Conversely, an undersubscribed IPO sends a signal that investors aren’t that interested. And when stocks do hit the exchanges, they may see a price reduction soon thereafter.


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The Takeaway

While individual investors may not have access to IPO subscriptions in the United States, you can still participate in the IPO market. The key is doing your research to find the right companies to invest in as they go public.

Whether you’re curious about exploring IPOs, or interested in traditional stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), you can get started by opening an account on the SoFi Invest® brokerage platform. On SoFi Invest, eligible SoFi members have the opportunity to trade IPO shares, and there are no account minimums for those with an Active Investing account. As with any investment, it's wise to consider your overall portfolio goals in order to assess whether IPO investing is right for you, given the risks of volatility and loss.


Invest with as little as $5 with a SoFi Active Investing account.

FAQ

How many times can an IPO be oversubscribed?

IPOs get oversubscribed frequently, which means that more investors want to buy shares than a company has available to issue. There isn’t really a limit as to how many times it can be oversubscribed, but depending on the category of investor, it’s not uncommon for IPOs to be oversubscribed dozens or even hundreds of times.

What is an IPO subscription rate?

IPO subscription rates are an estimate of how many bids are received for each investor category, divided by the number of shares allotted for each category by the company. This helps determine the level of participation among investors in each category.


Photo credit: iStock/SeventyFour

SoFi Invest®
INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE
SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

Investing in an Initial Public Offering (IPO) involves substantial risk, including the risk of loss. Further, there are a variety of risk factors to consider when investing in an IPO, including but not limited to, unproven management, significant debt, and lack of operating history. For a comprehensive discussion of these risks please refer to SoFi Securities’ IPO Risk Disclosure Statement. IPOs offered through SoFi Securities are not a recommendation and investors should carefully read the offering prospectus to determine whether an offering is consistent with their investment objectives, risk tolerance, and financial situation.

New offerings generally have high demand and there are a limited number of shares available for distribution to participants. Many customers may not be allocated shares and share allocations may be significantly smaller than the shares requested in the customer’s initial offer (Indication of Interest). For SoFi’s allocation procedures please refer to IPO Allocation Procedures.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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IPO Book Building Process Explained

IPO Book-Building Process Explained

Initial public offering (IPO) book building can help with efficient price discovery for companies looking to IPO. After the IPO, when shares are available for trading in the secondary market, book building may also be used to price secondary equity offerings.

With book building, the investment bank that underwrites an IPO reaches out to institutional investors to gauge their interest in buying shares of a company looking to go public. The underwriter asks those interested to submit bids detailing the number of shares they seek to own and at what price they would be willing to pay.

The process of book building has become more common than the fixed-pricing method, which may not yield the most accurate results.

Recommended: Why Do Companies Go Public?

Key Points

•   Book building is the preferred method by which a company prices IPO shares.

•   There are five key steps in the IPO book building process: find a banker, collect bids, determine a price, disclose details, and allotment.

•   Partial book building is restricted to institutional investors, while accelerated book building is used for large equity offerings to raise capital in a short period.

•   The risk of an IPO being underpriced or overpriced when shares go public can lead to volatility, making IPO investing a high-risk endeavor.

•   The goal of book building is to make sure proper market-based price discovery to help the issuing company set a fair share price.

What Is Book Building?

Book building is the preferred method by which a company prices IPO shares.

Among the first steps of the IPO process is for the private company to hire an investment bank to lead the underwriting effort. IPO book building happens when the IPO underwriter gathers interest from institutional investors, such as fund managers and other large investors, to determine the value of the private company’s shares.

As part of the IPO and book-building process, the investment bank must promote the company and the offering to stir up interest before they can determine share price.

This is often called an IPO roadshow. If the underwriter finds that there is sufficient interest based on responses from the investor community, then the bank will determine an offering price to the issuer.

Book building is recommended by all the major stock exchanges, and is common practice in most developed countries. It has become more popular than the fixed-pricing method, which involves setting an IPO price before measuring investor interest. Book building, on the other hand, generates and records investor interest to land on an IPO price.

Thus book building helps find a fair share price for a private company based on market interest. When a bank gauges market interest, a floor price is sometimes used, and bids arrive at or above that floor price. The stock price is determined after the bid closing date. With the book building method, demand can be seen in real-time as the book is being built.


💡 Quick Tip: IPO stocks can get a lot of media hype. But savvy investors know that where there’s buzz there can also be higher-than-warranted valuations. IPO shares might spike or plunge (or both), so investing in IPOs may not be suitable for investors with short time horizons.

[ipo_launch]

Book-Building Process

Firms going public want to sell their stock at the highest possible price without deterring the investment community. There are five key steps the issuing company must perform in the process of IPO book building in order to discover a market-based share price.

1.    Find a Banker: The issuing company hires an investment bank to underwrite the transaction. The underwriter advises the company, guiding it through the lengthy book-building process. The investment bank also commits to buying all the shares from the issuer, carrying all the risk. The bank will then resell the shares to investors.

2.    Collect Bids: The investment bank invites investors to submit bids on the number of shares they are interested in and at what price. This solicitation and the preliminary bids give the bankers and the company’s management an indication of the market’s interest for the shares. Roadshows are often used to grow investor appetite.

3.    Determine a Price: The book is built by aggregating demand as the bids arrive. The bank uses a weighted average to determine a final cutoff price based on indications of interest. This step helps with pricing an IPO.

4.    Disclosure: The underwriter must disclose details of the bids to the public.

5.    Allotment: Accepted bidders are allotted shares.

Even if the IPO book-building process goes smoothly and a price is set, it does not ensure that actual transactions will take place at that price once the IPO is open to buyers. Book building simply helps to gauge demand and determines a fair market-based price. But substantial risks remain for interested investors, who could see steep losses if the share price drops after the IPO.


💡 Quick Tip: Look for an online brokerage with low trading commissions as well as no account minimum. Higher fees can cut into investment returns over time.

What Is Partial Book Building?

Partial book building is another form of the IPO book-building process that happens only at the institutional level, rather than the retail level.

With partial book building, a select group of investors is approached regarding their interest in the IPO. Using their bids, a weighted average price is calculated and a cutoff price is determined. That cutoff price is then used as the public offering price to retail investors as a fixed price. The cost of the partial book-building IPO process is often lower due to its relative efficiency.

What Is Accelerated Book Building?

Accelerated book building is used for large equity offerings to raise capital in a short period of time. The investment bank is tasked with book building, determining a cutoff price, and allocating shares within 48 hours or less. No roadshow is involved.

The accelerated book-building process is used when a company needs immediate financing and raising capital from debt is off the table. It is typically done when a firm seeks to acquire another company.

Accelerated book building is often conducted overnight, with the issuing company asking investment banks to serve as underwriters before the next day’s placement.

What Effect Does Book Building Have On IPO Prices?

A good IPO book-building process helps ensure proper market-based price discovery. Still, there is the risk that an IPO can be underpriced or overpriced when shares finally go public. This can lead to volatility, which IPO investors also need to be aware of. This is one reason why IPOs are considered high-risk endeavors.

Underpricing, the main risk to the issuer, happens when the offering price is materially below the share price on the first day of trading. With an underpriced IPO, a company is said to have left money on the table, while an overpriced IPO can have negative implications on the future price of a stock due to poor investor sentiment. Investors can buy IPO stock on Day One of trading in the secondary market, while qualified investors can purchase IPO shares before they begin trading in the open market.

While there is no surefire way to guarantee a good IPO price, the book-building IPO method offers quality pre-market price discovery customized to the issuer. It also reduces the risk for the underwriter. It can have high costs, however, and there is the risk that the IPO will end up being underpriced. The overall goal is to see a good and steady stock performance during and after the IPO.

The Takeaway

The book-building IPO process involves critical steps to ensure a stock goes public promptly with as few hiccups as possible.

There are different types of IPO book building, and the way an investment bank performs the process can impact IPO prices. The goal is for efficient price discovery on shares of the company looking to go public. Book building can also be used for secondary equity offerings.

Whether you’re curious about exploring IPOs, or interested in traditional stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), you can get started by opening an account on the SoFi Invest® brokerage platform. On SoFi Invest, eligible SoFi members have the opportunity to trade IPO shares, and there are no account minimums for those with an Active Investing account. As with any investment, it's wise to consider your overall portfolio goals in order to assess whether IPO investing is right for you, given the risks of volatility and loss.

Invest with as little as $5 with a SoFi Active Investing account.

FAQ

What are the steps in book building?

There are 5 main steps in the book-building IPO process:

1.    The issuing company hires an investment bank to underwrite the offering. The bank determines a share price value range and writes a prospectus to send to potential institutional investors.

2.    The underwriting bank invites institutional investors to submit bids on how many shares they want to buy and at what price.

3.    The book is built by sorting and summing demand for the shares to calculate a final IPO price. It’s known as the cutoff price.

4.    The investment bank is required to disclose the details of submitted bids to the public.

5.    Shares are allocated to accepted bidders.

What is 100% book building?

100% book building is a process in which 100% of the offering is done on a firm basis or is reserved for promoters and permanent employees of the issuing company.


Photo credit: iStock/PeopleImages

SoFi Invest®
INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE
SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

Investing in an Initial Public Offering (IPO) involves substantial risk, including the risk of loss. Further, there are a variety of risk factors to consider when investing in an IPO, including but not limited to, unproven management, significant debt, and lack of operating history. For a comprehensive discussion of these risks please refer to SoFi Securities’ IPO Risk Disclosure Statement. IPOs offered through SoFi Securities are not a recommendation and investors should carefully read the offering prospectus to determine whether an offering is consistent with their investment objectives, risk tolerance, and financial situation.

New offerings generally have high demand and there are a limited number of shares available for distribution to participants. Many customers may not be allocated shares and share allocations may be significantly smaller than the shares requested in the customer’s initial offer (Indication of Interest). For SoFi’s allocation procedures please refer to IPO Allocation Procedures.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

SOIN0623080

Read more
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