What's going on?
On Thursday, LeasePlan – Europe’s largest vehicle fleet operator – slammed the brakes on its plans for an initial public offering (IPO) which could have valued the company at €6 billion ($7.5 billion).
What does this mean?
LeasePlan has two main businesses: providing specialist car leases or rental services for companies and running a digital marketplace for the sale and rent of vehicles (like Autotrader). Clearly, management aren’t asleep at the wheel: LeasePlan looks after 1.8 million vehicles and last quarter revenue was up 5% on last year.
An IPO of the privately owned company would’ve given early investors a chance to cash in and new investors a chance to buy shares. But LeasePlan decided against putting the show on the road – just a week after announcing its plans – thanks to several recent damp squibs as well as tumbling European stock markets (down 7% in the past fortnight).
Why should I care?
For markets: Recent IPOs are getting hammered.
Stock markets fall because investors are selling more shares than they’re buying. That indicates that supply is greater than demand. IPOs only add to this imbalance: an unknown quantity is hardly likely to perform well if stocks overall are falling from grace. LeasePlan may have made a wise choice, given that more high-profile IPOs have flopped in recent weeks. Shares in Aston Martin – maker of James Bond’s favorite motors – have fallen close to 20% since its listing, while Funding Circle’s fell 13%, and even buzzy Farfetch has dipped below its blockbuster IPO price.
The bigger picture: Private companies keep on keeping out.
Big companies like Airbnb or Pinterest appear comfortable remaining private for longer, taking advantage of the deep pockets of large investors in venture capital or private equity. Japan’s SoftBank is a prime example: it’s bankrolling some of the hottest (and biggest) startups around. Proponents say staying private can allow companies to focus on the day job – and avoid the distractions “going public” brings (oh hi there, Tesla).