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The Coronavirus Pandemic Will Delay 2020 IPOs

By Joe Tenebruso - Mar 15, 2020 at 7:00AM

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COVID-19 and initial public offerings don’t go well together.

We've all had the fantasy. The one that entails buying into a newly public company early and getting rich as it goes on to crush the market for years on end.

Initial public offerings (IPOs) can be exciting, fortune-creating investments. But it looks like investors are going to have to wait longer than expected to get their hands on some of this year's most anticipated IPOs.

A person pointing to the word IPO.

Image source: Getty Images.

The coronavirus pandemic has led to pandemonium in the stock market. Financial markets around the world have plunged in recent weeks, as the number of cases of COVID-19 -- the disease caused by the novel coronavirus -- surged around the world. More than 150,000 people have already been infected with the disease, and more than 5,000 people have died as a result. 

The pandemic and its related fallout are likely to wreak havoc on the global economy. Businesses, schools, and social gatherings of all sorts are being closed and canceled to slow the spread of the disease. China effectively quarantined an entire city, and Italy instituted a national lockdown. More countries are likely to take drastic measures to combat COVID-19, many of which will have a substantial impact on businesses' profits and peoples' livelihoods.

Amid this frightening backdrop, many companies that were planning to go public this year will likely delay their debuts. Some companies have already announced their plans to postpone their IPO, including Warner Music Group and Cole Haan.

After the blockbuster IPOs of Uber (UBER -3.41%), Lyft (LYFT -8.05%), and Beyond Meat (BYND -5.56%) last year, this year's slate of IPOs was set to include:

  • Airbnb: the popular online platform that lets people rent out their houses or spare rooms to guests 
  • DoorDash: an on-demand prepared food delivery service 
  • Robinhood: the fast-growing investment-platform 

However, it's uncertain if these companies will move forward with their IPOs in 2020. Market watchers are expecting a chill in the IPO climate to impact stocks across all sectors for the next several months.

We're already seeing some businesses push back their debuts, according to IPO research company Renaissance Capital. The coronavirus pandemic and related market turbulence have "essentially shut down the spring IPO market," Renaissance said in a recent note to investors. 

Gene therapy company Passage Bio (PASG -3.92%) squeaked its IPO through at the end of February and hematology biotech Imara saw its IPO through this week, but healthcare investors may see other biotechs put their plans to debut on hold.

High-risk doesn't always equal high-reward

Of course, not all IPOs perform well. Facebook's (META -5.20%) notorious IPO in 2012 went badly for traders who bought the stock on the day of its initial public offering, only to see it lose more than half its value in the months that followed. (Long-term shareholders, however, have fared far better since then.)

Still, some IPOs can deliver specular gains to early investors. As an example, Karuna Therapeutics (KRTX 2.45%), a biopharmaceutical company focused on developing therapies for people with mental disorders, delivered a return of more than 340% to investors in 2019. 

Unfortunately, if you're hoping to invest in this year's most exciting IPOs, it looks like you may have to wait a bit longer.

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Stocks Mentioned

Karuna Therapeutics, Inc. Stock Quote
Karuna Therapeutics, Inc.
KRTX
$120.65 (2.45%) $2.89
Passage Bio, Inc. Stock Quote
Passage Bio, Inc.
PASG
$2.45 (-3.92%) $0.10
Meta Platforms, Inc. Stock Quote
Meta Platforms, Inc.
META
$160.68 (-5.20%) $-8.81
Uber Technologies, Inc. Stock Quote
Uber Technologies, Inc.
UBER
$22.08 (-3.41%) $0.78
Lyft, Inc. Stock Quote
Lyft, Inc.
LYFT
$14.61 (-8.05%) $-1.28
Beyond Meat Stock Quote
Beyond Meat
BYND
$23.78 (-5.56%) $-1.40

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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