One of my better market calls for 2009 was predicting that 2008's worst IPOs would shine in 2009.

It was easy to spot the losers among the 2008 debutantes. Just five of the year's 43 stateside IPOs closed out 2008 higher than their offer price. Bears ran wild, and the few companies that dared to warm up to underwriters to raise capital through equity offerings got mauled.

Things were so bad in 2008 that one of its IPOs -- Britannia Bulk Holdings -- didn't even make it out alive. The dry bulk shipping company ceased trading in October of 2008 as class action lawsuits began to pile up.

Let's meet the vindicated
I singled out seven stocks that dinged their original IPO investors, shedding more than half of offer price value. All but one went on to bounce back strongly last year.


IPO Price



Verso Paper (NYSE:VRS)








China Mass Media (NYSE:CMM)




Safe Bulkers (NYSE:SB)




Cascal (NYSE:HOO)




Real Goods Solar (NASDAQ:RSOL)




Rackspace (NYSE:RAX)




The recoveries are impressive, averaging 96% apiece. If we include the dividends paid out to Safe Bulkers and Cascal shareholders -- boosting those 2009 returns to 42% and 37% respectively -- we're talking about a hearty 98% average return last year.

Fast-growing webhosting specialist Rackspace played a major part in skewing the average gains higher -- nearly quadrupling last year -- but six of the seven stocks went on to handily beat the S&P 500's 25% return in 2009.

The sophomore turnarounds are a motley crew. Verso makes coated paper, used in slick magazines and catalogs. This may not be a growth industry given the demise of print publishing -- and retail's migration from catalogs to cyberspace -- but investors felt the 2008 pummeling was overdone.

GT Solar and Real Goods Solar are distant plays within the sun power realm. 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. Safe Bulkers is a dry bulk shipping specialist like Britannia, only one that didn't crater in 2008.

Finally we have Rackspace. Hosting sites and cloud computing apps has been a winning formula for the IT company. It has soared since being tapped as a springtime recommendation for Motley Fool Rule Breakers newsletter subscribers.

You can't spell caveat without a cave
"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," I wrote 12 months ago.

The market gave these stocks enough room to "strut their stuff" when equity prices began to rally in March. The "attractive entry points" were perfect springboards -- for all but Real Goods Solar -- but it also leaves us with a long way to go make up the ground that was lost in 2008.

Only Rackspace is trading higher than what the original IPO investors paid. It's cruel math. If a stock sheds 80% of its value, it needs to appreciate fivefold to make it all back. Verso Paper is the perfect poster child (and what a shiny coating on its poster board). The $12 IPO closed out 2008 at a pocket change price of $1.03 a share. It soared 153% last year to hit $2.61, but it's clearly still nowhere near its offer price.

Spotting the next hot IPO isn't just about gravitating toward the perfect story stock. A good beating out of the gate can also be the ticket to market-thumping returns -- as long as you pick out the high-beta survivors and bulls have frightened away the bears.

Some interesting ways to profit from the IPO void:

Rackspace is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

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.