6/2/2011 5:15 PM ET|
5 ways outsiders can buy a hot IPO
Many investors had IPO envy when LinkedIn began life as a public company with a triple-digit gain. But if you're shut out of an IPO, you can still benefit from its wealth-building power.
Unfortunately, regular investors were left out of the biggest Internet IPO since the debut of Google (GOOG) in 2004.
That's the cold reality of IPOs. Unless you know someone at the company or have a great investing network with bigwigs on speed dial, you'll have a hard time sharing in the initial splash of companies like LinkedIn.
Still, it's hard not to wonder what it would take to share in the action the next time around -- say, when the $750 million IPO Groupon filed plans for on June 2 hits the market.
The good news is that even if you can't participate in the initial offering, there are options. Yes, some require a big bank account, but others allow even small-time investors to share in the process of taking the hottest companies into the public markets.
If you were salivating over LinkedIn and are even more excited over the prospect of an inevitable Facebook IPO, here are five options you may do well to consider:
Buy from investment bankers
A company going public hires financial advisers to structure the transaction, and if you go right to these money runners, you can get in on the offering. The gatekeepers are plainly listed in a company's IPO prospectus, publicly available on the Securities and Exchange Commission's EDGAR database.
For instance, LinkedIn's investment banks included Morgan Stanley (MS), Merrill Lynch and JPMorgan Chase (JPM). Unfortunately, these bankers won't give you the time of day unless you make it worth their while with a serious chunk of cash.
What's more, even if you can come up with a few hundred grand, it's an awfully risky bet to dump that big a chunk into a single company.
Buy on secondary markets
Over the past few years, new markets like SharesPost and SecondMarket have emerged to trade private company shares. And recently there has been a push to ease regulations and make this market even more accessible.
You could have bought LinkedIn shares on just this kind of exchange before the IPO. But the catch, again, is money. You'll probably have to have north of $100,000, considering the small initial supply of these shares.
There's also a time element to consider because of the legal hurdles and regulations involved with a private stock investment. So if you want to get into Facebook or another hot IPO on the secondary market, you'd better do your homework, and sooner rather than later.
Invest in IPO-focused funds
Consider pooling your buying power with other investors. There are a number of mutual funds and exchange-traded funds that focus specifically on the profit potential of the IPO scene.
Take the Global IPO Plus Aftermarket (IPOSX) fund. The fund's managers at Renaissance Capital are old hands in the IPO scene, providing research services to institutions. The catch is that because the fund relies on investments from little guys, it has a mere $11 million in assets.
Sad to say, even eight-figure capital may not be enough to catch the eye of big-time IPO players like Facebook.
Another option is the First Trust US IPO Index (FPX) ETF, which invests rather formulaically in IPOs by buying on the seventh day of trading and selling out on the 1,000th day. Sounds arbitrary, but the one-year return on this fund is 33% -- significantly better than the broader market. So maybe there's something to the strategy.
Buy after market
This seems like the no-brainer of the century: Wait until after the IPO and buy in.
But the trick here is to buy in responsibly and target a quick but substantial gain without getting greedy.
The poor saps who simply put in a market order after the start of trading in LinkedIn got the stock at the price the market was setting at the time the trade was executed, and they likely paid much more than they intended to.
But if you have a few thousand dollars to spare and place a limit order -- that is, a cap on what you'll pay per share -- you could enter on a dip.
Consider LinkedIn's first day of trading. Shares of the company, which operates a professional-networking site, opened at $83 on the New York Stock Exchange, up 84% from its initial public offering price of $45. The stock quickly spiked to $90 and climbed as high as $122.70 before closing at $94.25, up 109% from where it started the session.
Since then, however, sentiment on the stock seems to have been influenced by skeptics who stressed that LinkedIn's valuation -- $8.9 billion after the first-day close -- was too lofty for a company that generated $243 million in revenue last year. The stock closed June 1 at $77.45 a share, still well above the IPO price, but down 18% from the first-day close and 37% from its 52-week high of $122.70.
Of course, picking the right entry price for an IPO and knowing when to sell to lock in gains are easier said than done. But for savvy investors, there is big money to be made with a well-executed swing trade on the day of a stock's debut.
Invest in the investors
Perhaps the most roundabout way to play IPOs is to invest in mutual funds that participate in the IPO market. Take T. Rowe Price Group (TROW), which announced in April that it had purchased a Facebook stake worth $200 million. The company has spread that investment across 19 of its funds, including airlines, T. Rowe Price Growth & Income (PRGIX), T. Rowe Price Global Stock (PRGSX) and T. Rowe Price New America Growth (PRWAX).
And the T. Rowe Price New Horizons (PRNHX) fund, which doesn't have a stake in Facebook, has invested in Twitter.
Obviously fund investors also share in other investments, so the profit potential from an IPO isn't as direct. But for many small-time investors, this is still the best option. For those looking for a diversified portfolio with just a pinch of IPO potential for kick, funds like these may be a decent choice.
This article was reported by Jeff Reeves for InvestorPlace.
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