It was a crowded year for companies entering public markets, with 980 businesses going public in 2021—more than double the number that did so in 2020. The most successful of these debuts shine a light on the strengths of the global economy.
Asian businesses remain on the rise, all while combating a rocky regulatory environment. Companies that focus on delivering products to consumers at ever growing speeds continue to attract the dollars of global investors. Businesses that develop technologies to combat the climate crisis—like electric vehicles and renewable energy—and to capture the attention of consumers—like social media—have captivated global markets.
While the companies that enjoyed successful stock market debuts were characterized by innovation, many lacked diversity in their leaders. Of the top 10 IPOs by size in 2021, all the chief executives were men. Dating app Bumble, which ranked in the top 15, was the most successful IPO by a woman-led company.
To better understand the shifting market priorities in 2021, these were the top 10 IPOs of the year—using data provided by financial analysis firm Dealogic—ranked in order of size.
The Wall Street debut of electric car manufacturer Rivian was well timed. While countries raced to sign emission-cutting pledges during the UN climate conference in November, the environmentally-conscious company raised over $13.7 billion, making it one of the biggest U.S. IPOs in history.
Rivian, founded in 2009 by RJ Scaringe, began selling vehicles in 2021. The company’s original target was the sports car market, but it pivoted to electric pickup trucks and SUVs when Scaringe realized the widespread appetite for sustainable models. Rivian launched its first product in September, the all-electric R1T pickup truck retailing at $67,500.
In an attempt to counter the rise of rival electric vehicle manufacturer, Tesla, Rivian won the backing of car giant Ford, which owns a 12% stake. In 2019, former CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, announced the e-commerce company had ordered 100,000 electric delivery vans from Rivian, to help Amazon achieve its 2040 net-zero carbon pledge. Amazon is Rivian’s largest shareholder with a 20% stake.
With a global demand for sustainable transport, Scaringe foresees the company will increase production to 1 million vehicles per year by 2030.
Kuaishou, the biggest rival to video sharing platform ByteDance, raised $6.23 billion in its Hong Kong debut in February, the largest IPO in the tech industry since Uber raised more than $8 billion in 2019.
Cheng Yixiao, the company’s chief of product, founded Kuaishou in 2011 as a tool to create GIFs on smartphones. The company later pivoted toward short videos, with the tagline: “Capture the World, Share Your Story”. In June, then-CEO Su Hua revealed Kuaishou had amassed more than one billion monthly active users per month.
Like other content creator sites such as OnlyFans, the video sharing platform lets users leave tips for content creators, of which Kuaishou takes a cut. According to the FT, tips contributed 62% of Kuaishou’s revenue in the first nine months of 2020. The app also doubles as a livestreaming e-commerce platform, where creators market products directly to consumers.
After reaching a $160 billion valuation following its IPO, investors were spooked by tightened state regulation aimed at deterring inappropriate explicit content, and shares plummeted in value. In August, Kuaishou announced it was halting planned expansion to the U.S., and in October, Hua stepped back from the day-to-day running of the company. The company’s share prices are currently 26% lower than their IPO valuation.
Dubbed “the Amazon of South Korea,” e-commerce platform Coupang raised $4.6 billion in its Wall Street IPO in March. The company ended its first trading day with a market value of more than $84 billion, making it the largest U.S. debut for an international company since Alibaba’s listing in 2014.
According to the FT, Coupang allocated shares to less than 100 investor accounts—which include SoftBank, BlackRock, and Fidelity—a small number for an IPO of its size.
The Seoul-based company was founded in 2010 by Bom Kim, a Harvard Business School dropout. In just ten years Coupang has grown to South Korea’s largest online retailer.
Like Amazon, short shipping times and efficient supply chains have made Coupang synonymous with convenience. According to the company, 70% of Koreans live within 10 minutes of a Coupang logistics center. More than 99% of orders placed on its site are delivered within one day, it claims.
Since the blockbuster IPO, it hasn’t all been clear sailing for the company. In June, Coupang faced consumer boycotts following its handling of a fire that killed one person and destroyed its biggest logistics center. The incident, along with other worker deaths earlier in the year, caused concern that fast delivery times were being prioritized over workplace safety and fair labor practices. The company has also faced regulator probes into alleged algorithmic bias favoring its own products.
DiDi Global Inc.
It’s been a bumpy ride for China’s cab hailing app, DiDi. Just weeks before its Wall Street debut in June, China’s market regulator launched an antitrust probe into the company, as part of a crackdown on large companies, including Alibaba and Tencent, squeezing out smaller rivals.
Despite the threat, DiDi went on to raise $4.4 billion on the New York stock exchange, giving it a $73 billion valuation.
Just days later, however, regulators launched another investigation, this time into DiDi’s use of customers’ personal data. During the probe, the app was banned from registering new users or listing on Chinese app stores. Its stocks plummeted, and the company was forced to tell investors it was unaware of regulators’ plans ahead of its IPO.
Then, DiDi was hit by another blow, this time in the U.S. On Dec. 2, the SEC finalized rules making US-listed foreign companies liable to delisting if their auditors do not comply with requests for information from regulators. The law was introduced in 2020 after Chinese regulators repeatedly denied requests from U.S. authorities to inspect the accounts of Chinese firms listed on Wall Street.
Just six days later, DiDi announced it will remove shares from the NYSE, and move its listing to Hong Kong. Since its Wall Street debut, the company’s shares have lost more than 40% of their value.
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Polish package locker provider was Europe’s biggest IPO since 2018, with the company raising $3.9 billion in January on Amsterdam’s stock exchange. The listing was so popular that InPost was forced to shorten the offer period due to what it called “significant investor demand”.
Launched in 2006 and acquired by the private equity firm, Advent, in 2017, InPost offers an alternative to mainstream courier services. Deliveries are sent to one of the company’s vast network of automated lockers—which InPost dubs “automatic parcel machines”—allowing customers to collect at their leisure, 24 hours a day.
In Poland, 49% of the population already lives within a 7-minute walk of one of InPost’s lockers and its app has over 7 million users. InPost also operates key markets in the U.K. and Italy.
Amid COVID-19 stay at home orders at the start of the year, the market was primed for InPost’s expansion. Since the IPO, the company acquired French counterpart Mondial Relay in efforts to grow in Europe.
South Korean online game developer, Krafton, made its public debut in July, marking Korea’s highest IPO of 2021. The company, which derives almost all its sales from hit game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), raised $3.8 billion with the offering.
Entrepreneur Chang Byung-gyu founded Krafton—then Bluehold—in 2007. In 2018, a $500 million investment from Tencent Holdings, owner of Chinese messaging app WeChat, made Krafton a unicorn overnight.
Despite its size, Krafton underperformed in its IPO. First, the company was ordered to cut its offering by more than $870 million by the Korean financial watchdog, amid concerns over a potential bubble in the stock market. Then, after its debut, Krafton’s shares dropped. Mostly to blame were concerns about the company’s reliance on PUBG for its revenue, and a proposed crackdown on online gaming in China, one of the company’s biggest markets.
Despite setbacks, Krafton has plans to expand its entertainment offerings to include animated movies and interactive content around its PUBG fantasy universe. Earlier this month, the company backed Jordan-based mobile game publisher Tamatem in a $11 million funding round, as part of Krafton’s expansion into the Middle East and North Africa.
JD Logistics Inc.
The supply chain and delivery spinoff of Chinese e-commerce group, JD.com, enjoyed a healthy debut in Hong Kong, raising $3.6 billion.
Founded in 2007 as an integrated supply chain provider, JD Logistics helped to solidify its parent company’s leading position in the online retail market. JD Logistics delivers 90% of JD.com packages on the same or next day, and now has its sights set on expanding its third-party capacity.
While the logistics provider benefitted from the COVID-19 online shopping boom, its stock market debut—which came amid increased scrutiny of the tech sector in China—fell short of expectations. Analysts attributed the shortfall to the company’s increased investment in infrastructure. The company is attempting to slim down its labor costs with the use of AI and robots to automate packing processes.
China Three Gorges Renewables Group
Amid strong investor appetite for green energy assets, the renewables arm of China’s state-run power company raised $3.5 billion in its Shanghai debut in May. Its parent, China Three Gorges Corp (CTG), is the world’s largest hydropower company, famous for the hydropower dam on the Yangtze river.
CTG said proceeds from the offering would be used to help fund offshore wind power projects, as Beijing seeks alternatives to expensive coal power. The renewables unit launched its first floating offshore wind power platform in June, off the coast of Zhejiang province in south-eastern China. CTG Renewables’ plans to grow non-hydro renewables are set to be crucial in the race to reach net zero (China reported record coal production and only committing to “phasing down” coal at the UN climate conference, COP26).
Semiconductor manufacturer GlobalFoundries made its Wall Street debut under unusual circumstances: a global shortage of its own product. Just days after the company raised $2.9 billion in its October IPO, chief executive Tom Caulfield told CNBC that GlobalFoundries’ chip capacity was sold out through the end of 2023.
Manufacturers of cars, phones, and home appliances have all been hit by the microchip shortage. Apple has had to cut its projected iPhone 13 production targets by as many as 10 million units for 2021.
GlobalFoundries, which was spun off from Advanced Micro Devices in 2009, reported a 13% increase in revenue in the first half of the year as demand for chips soared. Despite global supply chain issues exacerbated by the pandemic, and what the CEO called an “underinvestment” in semiconductor technology, GlobalFoundries has secured record deals with the likes of BMW.
Chinese-owned, Swedish-headquartered car manufacturer Volvo listed on the Stockholm stock exchange in October after a previous cancelled attempt in 2018. Despite raising $2.7 billion, the IPO was scaled back on initial projections—owner Zhejiang Geely was forced to convert its vote-heavy shares into normal stock after protests from potential Swedish investors.
The increased desire among investors for electric vehicles, which only make up 3% of Volvo’s sales, possibly played a role in the modest valuation. Chief executive Hakan Samuelsson told the FT that to boost funding Volvo needed “to be credible in telling investors we’re on our way to being 100% electric”.
The company is set to use IPO proceeds to double annual sales to 1.2 million vehicles by 2025. It plans to sell only fully electric vehicles by the end of the decade.
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