Small-Cap IPO Volatility – The China Connection
Less than two months after the PCAOB and the China Securities Regulatory Commission and Ministry of Finance signed a Statement of Protocol reaching a tentative deal to allow the PCAOB to fully inspect and investigate registered public accounting firms headquartered in mainland China and Hong Kong, Nasdaq effectively halted all small-cap IPOs with a China connection. This time, the issue is not audit-related.
During the week of September 19, one of our clients had a deal ready to be priced and begin trading on Nasdaq. We had thought we cleared all comments when a call came from our Nasdaq reviewer – all small-cap IPOs were being temporarily halted while the Exchange investigated recent volatility. The same day, an article came out on Bloomberg reporting on 2200% price swings (up and then steeply back down) on recent IPOs involving companies with ties to China – a repeat of similar volatility in the late ’80’s and early ’90’s despite three decades of
Proposed SPAC Rule Changes
With the growing popularity of special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs), both the Nasdaq and NYSE have proposed rule changes that would make listings easier, although on June 1, 2018, the Nasdaq withdrew its proposal. SPACs raised more money last year than any year since the financial crisis. The SEC has been delaying action on the proposed rule changes, now pushing off a decision until at least August 2018.
A company that registers securities as a blank check company and whose securities are deemed a “penny stock” must comply with Rule 419 and thus are not eligible to trade. A brief discussion of Rule 419 is below. A “penny stock” is defined in Rule 3a51-1 of the Exchange Act and like many definitions in the securities laws, is inclusive of all securities other than those that satisfy certain delineated exceptions. The most common exceptions, and those that would be applicable to penny stocks for purpose of the SPAC, include: (i)
Going Public Without An IPO
On April 3, 2018, Spotify made a big board splash by debuting on the NYSE without an IPO. Instead, Spotify filed a resale registration statement registering the securities already held by its existing shareholders. The process is referred to as a direct listing. As most of those shareholders had invested in Spotify in private offerings, they were rewarded with a true exit strategy and liquidity by becoming the company’s initial public float.
In order to complete the direct listing process, NYSE had to implement a rule change. NASDAQ already allows for direct listings, although it has historically been rarely used. To the contrary, a direct listing has often been used as a going public method on the OTC Markets and in the wake of Spotify, may gain in popularity on national exchanges as well.
As I will discuss below, there are some fundamental differences between the process for OTC Markets and for an exchange. In particular, when completing a direct
OTC Markets Amends IPO Listing Standards for OTCQX
OTC Markets has unveiled changes to the quotations rule and standards for the OTCQX, which proposed changes are scheduled to become effective on June 13, 2016. The proposed amendments are intended to address and accommodate companies completing an IPO onto the OTCQX and which accordingly have no prior trading history. Such entities either would have a recently cleared Form 211 with FINRA or are completing the 211 application process through a market maker, at the time of their OTCQX application. The initial qualification changes apply to OTCQX Rules for U.S. Companies, U.S. Banks and International Companies.
The OTCQX previously amended its listing standards effective January 1, 2016 to increase the quantitative criteria for listing and to add additional qualitative requirements further aligning the OTCQX with a national stock exchange. To read my blog on the January 1, 2016 amendments see HERE.
The new amendments will (i) allow companies that meet the $5 bid price test to use unaudited, interim
Back To Basics – IPO Or Not To IPO?
Initial Public Offerings (IPO’s) are on the rise once again. I have potential clients calling me daily interested in going public through an IPO, most have little or no prior knowledge of the public company arena – so back to basics. An IPO is an initial public offering of securities. Prior to proceeding with an IPO, an Issuer should consider the advantages, disadvantages and alternatives.
The advantages of an IPO include:
- Access to capital
- Liquidity of stock
- Public image and prestige; and
- Ability to attract and retain better personnel
The disadvantages of an IPO include:
- Expense – both of the initial transaction and ongoing compliance;
- Public disclosure of business information – public companies are required to be transparent which can give private competitors an edge;
- Limitations on long term strategic decisions
- Civil and criminal liability of executive officers and directors; and
- Takeover danger
The alternatives to an IPO for an Issuer seeking capital include:
- A Section 4(2) and/or Regulation D