Time Standing Still for IPO Market
Public offerings have been in a drought since August, and the biggest IPO hopefuls -- Groupon, Zynga and Facebook -- aren't offering any relief.

Since August, it has been a death march for IPOs. The last deal was on Aug. 16, when the Chinese online video site Tudou (NASDAQ:TUDO) went public. This is in sharp contrast to the first half of the year, which saw many high-profile offerings, such as from Pandora (NYSE:P), Zillow (NYSE:Z) and LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD).

Just how bad was the third quarter? Well, according to a report from Thomson Reuters and the National Venture Capital Association, there were only five venture-backed offerings — a 77% drop from the prior quarter. The total value came to a meager $442.9 million. All in all, it was the worst performance since late 2009.

But there was a silver lining to the quarter. That is, mergers activity rose about 8%. Hey, if IPOs look shaky, why not try to sell out? But even this market can sour pretty quickly. When there is an uncertain economy, acquirers often hold back — unless there is a compelling valuation.

Confidence is extremely important, but it is difficult to find of it much in today’s markets. Already, it looks like the much-ballyhooed Groupon deal might be pushed out to next year — if it ever gets done.

So when can we expect things to get better? Try six months — maybe more. A big key will be a resolution of Europe sovereign debt crisis. And while there appears to be progress in the euro zone, a resolution probably will not be smooth or quick.

In the meantime, the IPO market needs some type of marquee deal to generate energy. It was thought this might come from a Zynga offering, but even this deal looks troubled.

The biggest potential IPO is Facebook, which continues to grow across the world. The problem? It looks like the company won’t go public until a year from now. And based on the trading across several online marketplaces, even its secondary-market stock price has come under pressure during the past few months.

Tom Taulli is the author of “All About Short Selling” and “All About Commodities.” You can also find him at Twitter account @ttaulli. He does not own a position in any of the stocks named here.

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