Big startups are eschewing IPOs and Wall Street banks are happy to help them.
Instead of public stock offerings, raising money through private placements is all the rage right now. For banks, the higher percentage many are paid in deal fees for helping companies stay private is as appetizing as the exclusive share sale is to the investors.
But the biggest reason they are happy to help startups stay private is because they don’t have to share fees with their competitors.
When a company goes public, the offering is usually made available to a half-dozen banks or more. A banker who works on startups’ private placements says his firm works alone on these types of offerings. That means they don’t have to share a slice of the revenue with anyone.
Banks make barely more than 1% on initial public offerings. What they make on private startups’ fundraising is usually much bigger on a percentage basis. The banker who spoke with Business Insider said investment banks typically make between 3% and 5% on transactions like private placement deals for startups.
It means big business for banks like Morgan Stanley. The bank is listed as having received sales compensation for working on a December 2014 Palantir Technologies offering. Having startups’ stock scarce on private markets keeps prices high and making more on a private placement is a short-term boost for banks’ top lines.
It’s being noticed in places like Silicon Valley, where valuations were already on the rise before big banks’ arrival in funding rounds. One investor said that 75% of unicorn valuations ($US1 billion and greater) were led by “non-traditional” investors, like Fidelity Investments or a hedge fund. Non-traditional investors and venture capital firms like Andreessen Horowitz are seeing more of their investments in startups coordinated by big banks.
Goldman Sachs is recognised as Wall Street’s leader at startup private placements. This year it has included transactions like Funding Circle, MuleSoft and SoFi.
Everyone from the biggest banks on Wall Street down to the tiny boutiques that oppose them are going all-in for one kind of client. And it isn’t just Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs; Deutsche Bank is said to be working in the space and JP Morgan has been involved in private placements as well.
This includes deals like Blue Bottle Coffee’s $US75 million round, Spotify’s $US500 million fundraising and Coupa’s cash haul earlier this month. One banker points out that for bigger deals like Spotify or Uber’s $US1.6 billion private debt placement, Wall Street firms tend to dial down the fee because of the size of the transaction.
On Wall Street, bankers think the unicorn is here to stay. And that means their business is, too.
“In the last 18 to 24 months it’s picked up considerably,” one banker said. “The argument around staying private is compelling.”
Disclosure: Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz, is an investor in Business Insider.
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