It has been a rough year for investment bankers, particularly those focused on equity capital markets.
Global equity capital markets volumes totaled $312.9 billion in the year to June 23, down 43% from the first half of 2015, and the lowest level since 2012.
And that was before Britain voted to leave the European Union last week, upending global markets and likely making an already challenging year for bankers even worse.
“From an equity capital markets perspective, it’s been a tough year,” said Frank Maturo, UBS’ vice chairman for equity capital markets in the Americas, at an event on Wednesday.
He noted that in addition to an unusually weak initial public-offering, or IPO market — IPO issuance to date is down 52% from last year — the follow-on market is also down 45% year-over-year.
Plus, nearly 60% of the follow-on issuance that has taken place is made up of block transactions and overnight trades — meaning deals that are arranged at short notice — rather than transactions that ECM bankers like Maturo would work on.
There also appears to be a pickup in the number of potential IPOs that end up turning into mergers-and-acquisitions, or M&A, transactions instead. That’s especially the case amongst sponsor-backed deals.
The security-software company Blue Coat Systems, for example, made its IPO filing public in early June and then days later sold to Symantec. Performance Health, which sold to Patterson Medical in May, was also expected to go public before its takeover, as was TransFirst, which was instead acquired by TSYS in January.
That companies are running so-called dual track processes — that is, both running a sales process while preparing for an IPO — is not necessarily new. But the sponsors backing these companies appear to be leaning more toward sales right now, given the uncertainty around things like the upcoming US presidential election, the Federal Reserve’s decisions around interest rate moves, and the general state of the global economy.
Sponsors may wish to do a full sale right now, rather than do an IPO and monetise their investments over the course of several years.
None of this is good news for the folks trying to bring equity offerings to the public markets.
“IPOs are down so much and block trades and overnight deals are up so much,” Maturo said. “That makes it a very tough environment for ECM people or origination people that are going out trying to win business.”