You may have been hearing about the terms IPO and pre-IPO and you`re wondering if you should invest in it. You might also be wondering if you can participate and if you should be aware of any risks. Let’s take a closer look at pre-IPOs and whether this type of investment is for you.
What is an IPO, pre-IPO, and how do you invest in pre-IPO?
An IPO, or initial public offering, is the process of offering a private company’s share to the public, allowing regular investors the opportunity to purchase a share in a new stock insurance.
An DPO, or direct public offering, on the other hand, the business sells shares directly to the public without the help of any intermediaries.
Both IPO and DPO methods allow a company to raise capital by listing shares on a public exchange.
A pre-IPO is when a company issues their shares to the public before they become a stock company. It’s a bit more of a late-stage opportunity to buy a private share of a company. Whether you can buy these shares depends on the people who have the licence to sell these private shares.
There are two types of markets. One is the public market where everyone can trade and it’s open for the public and for retail. The other market is the private market. All companies that first started in the private market are able to sell their shares through, for example, a lawyer doing the transactions.
Once a company becomes an initial public offering (new shares are created, underwritten and sold to the public) or direct public offering (no new shares are created and only existing, outstanding shares are sold with no underwriters involved), it will be on the platform where it is issuing shares to the public market. This allows everyone the chance to participate in the companies that they believe in. There will be future returns in this company in terms of growth and you will have the return.
How can you qualify for a pre-IPO?
When it comes to the private market, there are two types of people. Some private market investments are open to retail investors and some open only to accredited investors.
Pre-IPO is open mostly for accredited investors. Accredited investors are those with an individual income of $200K per year, or a household income of $300K per year. Another qualification is financial assets that total $1 million or a net worth of $5 million. If you qualify through one of these factors, then you are eligible for a pre-IPO.
What are some benefits to investing in a pre-IPO?
There are a lot of benefits but the greatest benefit to participating in a pre-IPO is you can buy these shares at a good, discounted rate, typically more than 30 to 40 percent. By the time a share becomes an IPO/DPO, it is usually double, or at least a good 30 to 40 percent growth from what you initially bought it for.
If you’ve been watching the stock market, you may have heard of startup companies, especially in the tech sector, that went on IPO/DPO in 2020.
Two companies, Palantir and AirBNB, went public offering successfully in 2020. Some people missed it because they didn’t qualify. Palantir is currently trading between $25 to $26 per share on the public sector. At first, Palantir was trading in the private sector at $4 to $6 a share. Now imagine if you had participated in the pre-IPO. You would have gotten a huge discount at $4 a share compared to now. It’s a huge jump now.
AirBNB was supposed to be an IPO price of $55 to $60 a share. The pre-IPO price was supposed to be $45 to $50 a share. It is currently trading at $160 to $170 a share. You can see a huge difference! Now at the time of pre-IPO, what retail investors need to understand is on the day of the IPO or DPO, you don’t necessarily get the price published on the news. At the time of the IPO or DPO, these prices are prioritized to financial institutions and institutional investors.
If the news says it will be issued at $65 a share, pre-IPO could be $10 or $20 less than that, depending on the situation. During the interval that they allow you to get in, it will probably jump to 100. This is the pattern that I have noticed for Palantir, AirBNB, and other companies.
Who is best suited for buying these IPOs?
These IPOs/DPOs are suitable for those with a strong knowledge in investments, an understanding of investment risk, and a portfolio diversified in different sectors, whether in the private or public sectors. The pre-IPO investments will only be one part of their portfolio.
Who do you contact to buy pre-IPO?
Depending on where you come from, there are different regulations in the USA. You are able to trade on some platforms, but you do need the accredited investor status.
In Canada there isn’t yet a platform to be able to trade pre-IPO at this point. You need to look for an advisor who is a licenced to be able to promote or offer private markets. These types of advisors may have access to pre-IPO. You will need to double check with the advisor because each firm has a different relationship with the companies that buy pre-IPOs. Not all private market advisors have access to Pre-IPOs.
What are the risks of participating in a pre-IPO?
The risks in private equity, particularly in pre-IPO, is that these investments are illiquid, as opposed to stocks that you can sell off or buy pretty much immediately. If the volume is high, you can exit out the next second and have cash in hand. Compared to the private market, it takes time to trade it off or it could be completely illiquid at this point.
The main risk will be the time. For example, for the past few years we have been raising capital for AirBNB and only in 2020 it became IPO.
Consider the time it takes for a company to go public and be publicly traded. There could be a delay. You could be potentially running a risk that the company never becomes a stock company. It’s also hard for this to become a liquid investment. If the company doesn’t become public, you will have to keep your cash inside the company or somehow privately sell it yourself.
For example, SpaceX, which is not going IPO anytime, is privately traded. You can buy it, but it’s unknown when it will go public. However, if you like Elon Musk and you want to participate in SpaceX, and you don’t care how long you will have to wait to buy it, then yes, you can trade and sell it at a price that you agree on with another party.
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Author: Sandy Gum, Insurance and Private Equity Advisor
Editor: Vanya Wryter