Tech Exits in 2Q17: More IPOs but slowing M&A Activity

Originally published in VentureBeat

With another quarter under our belts, its time again to reflect on how the market is fairing for technology exits in North America, both in terms of the IPO market and technology M&A.

In general, the IPO market seems to be doing well with the number of transactions rebounding from the first quarter low and investor returns continuing to outperform the broader market.  As for M&A, we’ve seen a large drop off in the dollar volume of transactions for the first half of 2017 but the number of overall transactions is still relatively strong.

So, let’s delve a little deeper into both markets below.

The IPO Market

As you can see from the chart below, we saw a rebound in the number of technology IPOs that took place in the second quarter up from only 4 transactions in the first quarter to 8 transactions in the second quarter – an encouraging sign.  While the overall proceeds were down quarter over quarter, that’s because of Snap’s first quarter IPO of $3.4bn that distorted the trend somewhat and made up over 85% of the first quarter deal proceeds.

Above: Data source: CapitalIQ

Another couple of metrics we typically look at to gauge the health of the IPO market is how transactions have priced versus the filing range and how they have performed since IPO.  Pricing versus the filing range compares the IPO price to the initial range that the transaction was marketed off – all IPOs in North America start their roadshow with a price range they intend to sell the deal at.  If a transaction prices above this range it is obviously a positive sign (investor reception was better than expected) and if it prices below its an indication that there wasn’t enough investor demand at the initial expected price range.   As we can see from the table below, we started the quarter off strong with 3 transactions pricing above their range (Okta, Yext and Cloudera).  However, as the quarter went on we saw three out of five transactions price within the range and two pricing below the range.

While this might appear neutral to negative for the overall IPO market, we also look at investor performance over the period as our second indicator of market health.  As you can see below, the median performance across all second quarter IPOs was extremely healthy, posting a return of 18.7% - much higher than the overall market performance over the same period.

Above: Data source: CapitalIQ and

The M&A Market

After an extremely robust M&A market in 2016, we have seen a material drop off in the technology M&A market in 2017 with only $48bn of transactions year-to-date as can be seen in the chart below.

Above: Data source: CapitalIQ

However, by only looking at the amount of dollars going into M&A we are distorting the picture somewhat.  The number of transactions so far this year has been much more in line with the ~600 we have seen per quarter in 2016. So, this would tell us that the M&A market remains relatively healthy and there really hasn’t been a material drop off in activity.  This view is emphasized by the chart below which shows the largest transactions in 2017 vs 2016 – as you can see there were some very large transactions in 2016 which significantly skewed the size of the M&A market – those types of deals simply haven’t taken place yet in 2017.

Above: Data source: CapitalIQ

So, while the dollars going into tech M&A have declined significantly, it’s the absence of the blockbuster transactions that has brought this number down and not a significant drop off in overall deal activity.  As such, we are encouraged that the remainder of the year will be equally as strong.

Ed Bryant is President and CEO of Sampford Advisors, an M&A advisory firm for Canadian technology companies with offices in Ottawa and Toronto. Ed has over 20 years of experience, including over 17 years in investment banking with Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley, and Sampford in Hong Kong, Singapore, New York, and now Ottawa. In that time, he has raised over $20 billion in equity and debt capital and completed over $10 billion in merger and acquisition transactions.

Ed Bryant