By Paul R. La Monica, CNN Business
This is shaping up to be the biggest year for new stock listings ever, thanks to the debuts of several buzzy unicorns.
The list includes buy-now-pay-later leader Affirm, dating app Bumble, Roblox, Oatly, Robinhood and Amazon-backed electric truck maker Rivian, just to name a few.
But will the market for initial public offerings, direct listings and so-called blank check special purpose acquisition company mergers cool off in 2022? It’s possible.
Some members of the IPO class of 2021, particularly Oatly and Robinhood, have stumbled in recent months which may not bode well. And the current bout of volatility, a response to concerns about the Omicron variant and the Federal Reserve’s pullback of its pandemic-era easy-money policies, may hurt stocks.
Unicorns on hold?
There are also lots of questions about whether some of the top private startups are going to be ready, willing or able to go public anytime soon. For example, Chinese TikTok owner ByteDance is the most valuable unicorn on the planet, worth $140 billion — but Beijing’s crackdown on big tech companies may make an IPO tough to manage.
And Chinese ride-sharing app Didi has struggled since it went public. Recent reports suggest regulators in Beijing may now want Didi to delist from the New York Stock Exchange because of worries about data security.
Other buzzy unicorns, such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX and payments giant Stripe, may be content staying private for longer. Although SpaceX now has a valuation of $100 billion, it’s not clear whether Musk wants to follow the route of Tesla and take it public too.
But Musk recently tweeted that “a lot has happened in 8 years,” in response to another tweet that highlighted a 2013 memo from Musk about why he hoped to keep SpaceX private.
As for Stripe, one of its co-founders said in an interview with CNBC last month that the $95 billion startup is “very happy as a private company.”
Competitive concerns could delay IPO plans
The CEO of Klarna, an Affirm rival, told CNBC in September that “the volatility in the market right now makes me nervous to IPO, to be honest.” And things have only gotten more bumpy on Wall Street since then. Klarna is valued at $45.6 billion.
And it could be tough for plant-based burger giant Impossible Foods, currently valued at $4 billion, to go public given the disastrous stock performance of Beyond Meat this year. Shares of Beyond Meat have plunged nearly 45% in 2021, in part due to concerns that the “fake meat” fad is fading — but also due to brutal competition from Impossible and established food giants like Kellogg, ConAgra and Tyson.
There are some other top unicorns that still may wind up hitting the public markets next year. Traders should keep an eye on companies like Fortnite owner Epic Games, sports apparel and trading card company Fanatics and Reddit, for example.
But investors hoping for a wave of IPOs in 2022 may have to wait a while longer before many of these notable startups join the Wall Street parade.
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