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The World’s Largest IPOs Adjusted For Inflation



The World’s Largest IPOs Adjusted For Inflation

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The World’s Largest IPOs Adjusted For Inflation

Billion-dollar initial public offerings (IPOs) are always eyebrow-raising events, and many have already made headlines in 2020.

Following the recent trend of tech IPOs outnumbering and out-hyping the competition, software has led the way. Cloud storage company Snowflake raised $3.4 billion in the largest ever software IPO, while gaming software developer Unity completed an IPO above its target price for a total of $1.3 billion and big data firm Palantir opted for a direct listing for a valuation of $22 billion.

More big names are still on the horizon. DoorDash just completed an above-range IPO and ended up raising $3.37 billion, and Airbnb raised $3.5 billion before shares opened more than 100% above the IPO price. It’s a big recovery for an IPO market that in 2019 saw major IPOs from Uber and Lyft underperform estimates.

But it was the last-minute cancellation of Ant Group’s IPO in November that would have been the largest public offering ever. At $34.5 billion, it would have eclipsed the massive $25.9 billion raised by energy giant Saudi Aramco in 2019.

How would this have stacked up against the world’s largest IPOs in history? We took the 25 largest global IPOs by nominal offering size as tracked by research firm Renaissance Capital, and adjusted them for inflation to October 2020 dollars.

NTT Docomo Tops the (Adjusted) Chart

Unicorn IPOs might be the current flavor in 2020, but they pale in comparison to communication and resource giants.

When adjusted for inflation, the largest ever IPO was Japan’s major mobile phone carrier NTT Docomo. The company went public as NTT Mobile Communications Network for a then-record $18 billion in 1998, which is $28.7 billion when adjusted for inflation to 2020.

CompanyIPO DateIndustryDeal Size ($B)Inflation Adjusted ($B)
NTT MobileOct 1998Communication Services18.128.7
Saudi AramcoDec 2019Energy25.625.9
ENEL SpANov 1999Utilities16.525.5
Alibaba (U.S.)Sep 2014Technology21.823.9
SoftBank CorpDec 2018Communication Services21.322.1
VisaMar 2008Technology17.921.8
Deutsche TelekomNov 1996Communication Services1321.3
AIA GroupOct 2010Financials17.821.2
General MotorsNov 2010Consumer Discretionary15.818.8
FacebookMay 2012Technology1618.1
ICBCOct 2006Financials1418.1
Japan Tobacco Inc.Oct 1994Consumer Staples9.616.7
AT&T Wireless GroupApr 2000Communication Services10.616.1
Rosneft Oil CompanyJul 2006Energy10.413.3
Dai-ichi LifeMar 2010Financials1113.2
Kraft FoodsJun 2001Consumer Staples8.712.7
Agricultural Bank (H.K.)Jul 2010Financials10.412.4
Bank of ChinaMay 2006Financials9.211.8
France TelecomOct 1997Communication Services7.311.7
GlencoreMay 2011Materials1011.5
Alibaba (H.K.)Nov 2019Technology11.211.3
Electricite De FranceNov 2005Utilities8.311
Agricultural Bank (China)Jul 2010Financials8.910.6
Hengshi MiningNov 2013Materials9.310.4
Japan AirlinesSep 2012Industrials8.59.5

Despite the recent flurry of IPO activity, only two of the largest 10 inflation-adjusted IPOs occurred in the last two years, with second place Saudi Aramco and Japan’s communications and tech conglomerate SoftBank.

Including NTT Docomo, three of the top 10 occurred in the 1990’s. Italy’s energy giant ENEL SpA raised the equivalent of $25.9 billion in 1999, and German communications company Deutsche Telekom raised the equivalent of $21.3 billion in 1996.

Communications services accounted for five of the top 25 IPOs, and four of the top 10. Only the financials were more prominent with six of the top 25.

Final IPO Numbers can Outperform (and Underperform)

One important consideration to make is that the final amount raised by an IPO can vary from the original deal size.

Though they are underwritten by a large financial institution for a set amount at a specific price range, companies often grant underwriters the “greenshoe option” to sell more shares than the original issue amount, usually up to 15% more.

This over-allotment option lets an underwriter capitalize on a strong market by offering more shares at a surging share price (which they cover at the original price). In the opposite case of falling share prices, the underwriter can buy back shares at market rate to stabilize the price and cover their short position.

Many of the largest ever IPOs have managed to capitalize on their much-hyped debuts. Saudi Aramco ended up raising $29.4 billion, almost $4 billion more than its original offering. In similar fashion, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba raised $25 billion on an offering of $21.8 billion, and Visa raised $19.7 billion on an offering of $17.9 billion.

Additionally, large corporations can take advantage of market sentiment by going public in multiple equity markets. Alibaba’s $25 billion debut on the New York Stock Exchange in 2014 was followed by a secondary offering on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 2019 for $11.2 billion. Likewise, the Agricultural Bank of China listed on both the Hong Kong and Shanghai Stock Exchanges in 2010 for a combined $22.1 billion haul.

More IPOS on the Docket for 2021

With excitement around IPOs bubbling once again, more companies are lining up to become the next big breakthrough on public markets.

2021’s list of IPO candidates include shopping app Wish (which has already filed for an offering), gaming companies Epic Games and Roblox, payment processing firm Stripe and even dating app Bumble.

And Ant Group’s massive potential IPO shadow looms over all, though regulatory overhauls in China might push it back to 2022 and lower the size of the offering.

For now, the list of the world’s largest IPOs looks to be relatively stable. But with social media giant Facebook cracking the Top 10 list in 2012, and SoftBank’s massive IPO in 2018, the next +$10 billion dollar IPO is always around the corner.

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Ranked: Who Made the Most U.S. Unicorn Acquisitions Since 1997?

Roughly 30% of unicorns making an exit get acquired. But which companies have made the most U.S. unicorn acquisitions in the last 25 years?



A bubble chart visualizing the companies that made the most unicorn acquisitions between 1997 and 2021.

Who Made the Most U.S. Unicorn Acquisitions Since 1997?

The elusive unicorn is no longer a myth in the U.S. startup world, with over a thousand private startups reaching a $1 billion valuation in the last 25 years.

While some of these startups eventually go public and go on to become household names, it’s also common for founders to exit through mergers and acquisitions (M&A), by selling their startup to another organization. In fact, over half of the 1,110 unicorns in the U.S. have made some sort of an exit—either through an IPO, a direct listing, a SPAC or an acquisition—since 1997.

Ilya Strebulaev, professor of finance and private equity at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, brings us this visualization featuring the companies that acquired the most unicorns over the last 25 years.

Strebulaev’s database lists 137 private and public companies along with PE firms who’ve acquired at least one unicorn since 1997, totaling 177 acquisitions.

The Biggest U.S. Unicorn Acquirers

In total, 27 companies have acquired two or more unicorns, accounting for nearly 38% of all acquisitions. 110 companies have acquired just one unicorn.

Company/ PE GroupAcquired
Nortel Networks3
Bristol-Myers Squibb3
Johnson & Johnson3
Merck & Co.3
Recruit Holdings2
Thoma Bravo2
Headspace Health2
Adobe Systems2
Eli Lilly2
Vista Equity2
Lucent Technologies2
Broadcom Corporation2
Searchlight Capital Partners1
Internet Capital Group1
Hellman & Friedman1
Ciena Corporation1
Redback Networks1
Aether Systems1
Fresenius Medical Care1
Electronic Arts1
Keurig Dr Pepper1
Sycamore Networks1
IG Group1
Empower Retirement1
Dentsply Sirona1
Novo Nordisk1
Bausch Health1
Dainippon Sumitomo Pharma1
Mubadala Investment Company1
Cint Group1
Rocket Companies1
Saudi Arabia's PIF1
One Medical1
Exact Sciences1
Teladoc Health1
PayPal Holdings1
Marvell International1
Cox Enterprises1
Iron Mountain1
American Express1
Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan1
Allstate Corporation1
GMT Communications1
Brightstar Capital1
Enterprise Holdings1
Healtheon Corporation1
Rice Energy1
SBA Communications1
Bridgepoint Advisers1
Vector Capital1
Littlejohn & Co1
SoftBank Investment Advisers1
Francisco Partners1
Betfair Group1
Shift Technologies1
Hudson's Bay1
Hewlett Packard Enterprise1
VMware & EMC Corp1
Netmarble Games1
F5 Networks1
Centerbridge Partners1

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, leads the pack with the most unicorn acquisitions in the U.S., purchasing five unicorns since its founding in 2008, including: Kustomer, WhatsApp, Instagram, CTRL-Labs, and Oculus VR.

Notably, WhatsApp—which closed at a purchase price of $19 billion—was Meta’s most expensive acquisition yet, over nine times their next most expensive purchase, Oculus VR.

Meanwhile, Alphabet (now the parent company of Google) and Cisco are tied in second place with four U.S. unicorn acquisitions each.

  • Alphabet: YouTube, Actifio, Nest Labs, Looker Data Sciences
  • Cisco: Cerent, Duo Security, AppDynamics, Jasper

Unlike its Big Tech peers, Apple has only made the one U.S. unicorn acquisition: navigation company HopStop that helped bring public transit features to Apple Maps.

Meanwhile, 56% of acquirers received venture capital funding of their own when they were private companies. This includes pack leaders like Meta, Cisco, Alphabet, and Amazon.

Are Unicorn Acquisitions Slowing Down?

Unicorn acquisitions are driven by two factors: the rate at which new unicorns are minted, and the climate for M&A transactions more broadly.

To begin with, the minting of new unicorns is largely influenced by the venture funding environment. Funding opportunities increase when interest rates go down, which makes riskier, venture-scale ideas more enticing. During the last decade of persistently low interest rates up until 2022, unicorns flourished more than ever.

Meanwhile, as tech companies like Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, and Meta began seeing outsized profits in the 2010s, venture investors and their LPs looked to get in on the ground floor of tech startups that could emulate their success, often paying premium valuations for the chance. Simultaneously, big tech looked to acquire unicorns themselves, both to augment their business lines and to squash potential competitors.

However, the era of “easy money” may have come to an end, and privately-held startups have seen valuations drop in recent years. This means that for the next little while—at least until monetary policy stops tightening—unicorns could become a rarer sight.

Unicorn acquisitions may also see a similar fate. Persistent inflation and the government anti-trust push are just some of the other factors that have led to VC-backed startup acquisitions falling to their lowest quarterly levels in a decade. The more expensive the valuation, the harder to find a buyer, which means that some unicorns may even lose their $1 billion tag even when they do get acquired.

How does a startup become a unicorn? Check out How Startups Can Improve Their Odds of Becoming a Unicorn which provides a blueprint to navigate this enormous task.
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