Monday, 27 August 2007

"Time is ripe" for Tech IPOs?

An article in the FT today Click here suggests that, after several years of famine, the UK is "ripe" for an upsurge of tech IPOs. The evidence for this is, apparently, the success of recent US tech IPOs like VMware, Limelight Networks and Data Domain.

What we have actually seen in the UK of late, of course, is a reduction in the number of quoted tech companies as so many of the mid-sized players have fallen to a combination of trade and PE-backed bids. Indeed the 'public-to-private' trend has been the most pronounced feature of the market in the last 5 years. If the FT prediction was to 'come-to-pass' it would be most likely the shortage of funds for PE-backed deals that would be the reason. Strangely this is not mentioned in the FT article!

But, to be honest, I think all this talk of an up-tick is wishful thinking. I think valuations, PE-backed deals and tech M&A have all peaked. IPOs have happened in good and bad times and I think that sound tech IPOs will always find backers. Indeed, Milan Radia (a well respected analyst known to many readers) suggests in the FT article that "investor appetite will probably remain strong for companies with larger liquidity, longer, more established track records and good business visibility". That is hardly new Milan!

Additionally those IPOs in in-fashion sectors - Web 2.0/social networking/the 'Me-Web' - will also find their groupies.

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