By David Sterman
It took awhile, but the IPO market is heating up. Recent deals have performed so well that investment bankers are hustling the next crop up to the starting gate at a rapid pace. You can't blame them. A shift in the markets can shut the IPO market down, so these firms and their bankers are looking to strike while the iron is hot.
Of course, investors only have access to these deals if they have a brokerage account with one of the company's underwriters. If you have accounts with any investment banks, it pays to give your broker a call and see what deals the firm is underwriting.
Expecting triple-digit gains (sometimes in a matter of weeks) -- as these IPOs have generated -- is unrealistic. But as long as the stock market stays aloft, many coming IPOs could easily tack on 20% to 40% in aftermarket trading. The IPO market is simply that frothy right now.
Ironically, this year's most anticipated deals have yet to materialize. Back in January, I looked at 10 potential blockbuster IPOs in the tech sector, though none of these firms has lined up in the near-term IPO pipeline queue. They shouldn't wait too long. The IPO market can slam shut in the blink of an eye if the market turns south.
Yet we can take a sneak peek at companies that have already filed to go public in coming weeks and months. Here are seven firms to watch.
1. Phillips 66 Partners (NYSE:PSXP)
Investors in energy pipeline master limited partnerships (or MLPs) are likely to give this deal a close look. The backing of such a large corporate parent could give this offspring access to some sweetheart deals. Bankers are completing the paperwork, and the IPO, using the ticker PSXP, come arrive any day now. JPMorgan Chase (JPM) is the lead underwriter (though your broker may also be "on the cover" of the deal book, which could enable you to get shares at the offering price).
2. WCI Communities (NYSE:WCIC)
This may be a familiar name. It was a high-end homebuilder that crashed and burned after the 2008 housing crisis. A focus on Florida explains why this builder went into bankruptcy. Yet a resurgent Floridian real estate market explains why it's time to go public again. The high end of the real estate market is indeed the place to be, but this deal won't likely be much of a bargain considering homebuilding peers have already seen their shares bid up sharply over the past few years. Citigroup (C) is acting as lead underwriter; the ticker will be WCIC.
3. Associated Materials
This is a play on the various materials used in new and used home construction, and like WCI, may be attractive to housing market bulls. Yet be warned that this company remains unprofitable and will still have a hefty debt load even after the IPO is completed. As a result, it may be wise to buy shares only if they are priced at a very attractive discount to the peer group. Goldman Sachs (GS) will be the underwriter, though no ticker symbol has yet been assigned.
4. Agios Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:AGIO)
Biotech stocks are in high demand, both as IPOs and as already public companies. And this one should be as hot as any, thanks to the backing of biotech superstar Celgene (CELG). Agios is developing drugs that starve cancer cells by blocking the mutated metabolic enzymes that feed them. However, Agios is only now entering clinical trials, and it will be several years before any drugs hit the market. And that of course assumes that the clinical trials will be successful.
My preferred strategy: If you can't buy the shares at the IPO, wait for the inevitable return to earth that besets all biotechs at some point in their multi-year drug testing cycle. These kinds of stocks tend to drift out of investors' minds during Phase I and Phase II testing. JPMorgan will act as the lead underwriter.
5. Jones Energy (NYSE:JONE)
The timing for this natural gas driller is a bit suspect. Weak gas prices have recently rendered the Austin, Texas-based firm unprofitable, and it would have been preferable to seek an IPO when gas prices are higher. Still, Jones appears unable to wait much longer, as it needs the cash to keep up with its drilling plans. JPMorgan is the lead banker, and this stock will trade under the ticker JONE.
6. Onconova Therapeutics (NASDAQ:ONTX)
As noted, investors are snapping up biotech stocks with abandon right now, though in terms of IPOs, the field is mostly confined to companies that are only in the early stages of drug testing.
Onconova is the rare biotech that is going public while a key drug is already in Phase III trials, meaning investors only need to wait for several quarters and not several years to find out if the company will succeed. Onconova is developing rigosertib, which targets pancreatic cancer. (Other cancers are being targeted in earlier clinical trials.) Citigroup is the underwriter, and the ticker will be ONTX. Baxter (BAX), which has secured European sales rights, is one of several investors in the company.
7. SFX Entertainment
SFX is the world's largest operator of electronic dance events, which we old folks used to call "raves." The company's festivals have often drawn up to 100,000 attendees, which means this IPO will garner plenty of buzz. But IPO investors may be turned off by the fact that SFX lost roughly $50 million last year on a base of $242 million in revenue. An investment in SFX is a wager on CEO Robert Sillerman, who has made investors considerable profits with past ventures in the music business. UBS is the lead underwriter, and the ticker will be SFXE.
Risks to Consider: Even if you buy these IPOs, it's risky to hold them too long as they can move out of favor after a quarter or two. That's often when analysts decide to stop covering a company. Moreover, a drop in the stock market can be especially hard on these new issues, as they lack a long-term track record and entrenched shareholder base.
This is shaping up to be one of the strongest years for IPOs in quite some time, and many of the new issues have generated rapid and profitable trades. Still, it pays to do a great deal of due diligence on these stocks before buying to ensure that there is a tangible growth opportunity in place. Remember, it may pay to call your broker and see whether your firm is underwriting any of these deals.