There were plenty of smelly market debutantes last year. Just five of the 43 stateside IPOs closed out 2008 higher than their offer price, and I tipped my hat in their direction yesterday.

Let's take a look at the losers today.

Given the bearish market that hammered equities through most of 2008, it's easy to understand why investors were hesitant to snap up freshly minted stocks. Lousy timing can whack even quality offerings, just as rotten stocks can take off when the bulls are running.

That is why sifting through the losers may be a lucrative practice. Since drumming up enough interest to pull off an IPO was extremely challenging in itself last year, one can argue that some of the best investing ideas for 2009 may come from the ranks of 2008's busted debutantes.

The weaker they are, the harder they fall
The biggest loser among last year's IPOs was Britannia Bulk Holdings. But don't get excited. The dry bulk shipping company is essentially worthless since it ceased trading in October, with class action lawsuits piling up.

If there are any opportunities to be had among the ruins, they will have to come from the tripped-up IPOs that continue to feasibly exchange hands on the open market.

Company

IPO Price

2008 Loss

Verso Paper (NYSE:VRS)

$12.00

(91.4%)

GT Solar (NASDAQ:SOLR)

$16.50

(82.5%)

China Mass Media (NYSE:CMM)

$6.80

(79.2%)

Safe Bulkers (NYSE:SB)

$19.00

(64.8%)

Cascal (NYSE:HOO)

$12.00

(66.5%)

Real Goods Solar (NASDAQ:RSOL)

$10.00

(63.5%)

Rackspace (NYSE:RAX)

$12.50

(57.0%)

Is there a unifying theme among the downtrodden? No. Verso makes coated paper that's used in slick magazines and catalogs. With retailers scaling back on direct mail and publishers suffering circulation and advertising hits, no one should be surprised that Verso is in a funk.

GT Solar and Real Goods Solar are sun-power plays, but they approach it from entirely different angles. GT provides equipment for photovoltaic manufacturers. Real Goods is a residential installer of solar panels on the West Coast.

China Mass Media is a television advertising company in the world's most populous nation. Cascal is a United Kingdom water company with a cutesy ticker symbol of an H and two Os. Get it? (H 2 O) Gotta love that British humour.

Safe Bulkers is a dry bulk shipping specialist like Britannia, only in better shape, clearly. Rackspace is a fast-growing web-hosting provider.

Making room in the winner's circle
Some of the markdowns are justified. China Mass Media is growing its top line quickly, but continues to struggle with profitability. GT and Real Goods have the misfortune of RSVP-ing late to the solar energy party.

However, all seven of these 2008 losers have a fair shot at redemption.

Cascal is refreshingly profitable. Through the first six months of fiscal 2009, revenue from continuing operations climbed 12%, with earnings more than doubling to $0.35 a share.

Safe Bulkers is also squarely in the black. If it can keep its quarterly dividends going at the current rate, investors will be treated to a whopping yield of 23.5%. Verso's stock has been hammered to the point where its pittance of a dividend actually translates into a yield of 11%.

The stocks aren't exactly misfits. Analysts see just one of the seven -- Verso -- posting a loss this year.

So, can the worst IPOs of 2008 grow up to be some of the best stocks in 2009? I think so. Hot IPOs aren't always born overnight. As long as the market gives the companies a little room to strut their stuff, most of them offer attractive entry points into companies that investors were willing to pay a lot more for less than a year ago.

So what are you waiting for? Get your hands dirty and start sifting.

Some interesting ways to profit from the IPO void:

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a fan of new stocks, and has even recommended several fresh IPOs to newsletter readers in the past. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.