VC-Backed IPOs Face Worst Q1 In 24 Years

Cutback has been the VC industry buzzword during Q1 2002, but the industry’s most severe reductions have nothing to do with management fees or fund sizes. Instead, VCs are feeling the greatest pinch from their drastically shrinking piece of the IPO market pie.

According to figures from the VentureXpert database, the past three months represented the worst quarter for venture-backed initial public offerings in over two decades. Just four U.S.-based venture-backed companies priced IPOs in Q1 2002, the lowest such tally since the second quarter of 1978. It is also a 71% drop-off from Q4 2001, which saw 14 U.S.-based venture-backed companies make public debuts.

This is not, of course, the first time that the number of VC-backed IPOs has taken a dip from the previous quarter. The first quarter of 2001, for example, suffered a 62% decline from Q4 2000.

The difference this time around, however, is that the overall IPO market not suffer nearly as steep a decline as did the venture-backed niche. Of the over $6.91 billion raised by U.S.-based companies last quarter, just $376.3 million came from VC-backed offerings. That works out to approximately 5.4%, which is a far cry from the 54% stake that VC-backed offerings had in the overall IPO trough in Q4 2001. Moreover, the percentage shrinks even further if foreign-based companies pricing on U.S. markets – such as a $2.3 billion IPO from Switzerland-based Alcon Inc. (ACL) – are thrown into the mix.

It is important to note that venture-backed IPO filings did not significantly decline in Q1 2002. The period saw 19 VC-backed companies file S-1 registration papers with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), as opposed to a slightly higher 21 VC-backed companies in Q4 2001.

Saving Grace

While the overall VC-backed picture looked bleak last quarter, the four companies that managed to price have fared pretty well. At the market’s close last Thursday, just one of the four was trading below its offering price.

“The silver lining in this dark cloud is that valuations seem to have stabilized and that venture-backed companies that have gone public are performing well,” said Mark Heesen, president of the National Venture Capital Association.

Leading the way in terms of overall value is WCI Communities Inc. (NYSE:WCI), which priced a $131.1 million IPO on March 12. The Bonita Springs, Fla.-based homebuilder sold 6.9 million shares at $19 per share, and last Thursday at $23.98 per share (a 26.2% gain). Venture investors in the company include Citicorp Venture Capital and the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Also trading up is Palo Alto, Calif.-based PayPal Inc., (Nasdaq:PYPL) which was the first Internet-related offering since Loudcloud Inc.’s (Nasdaq:LDCL) IPO over a year ago. The $70.2 million deal priced at $13 per share on Feb. 15, and was at $18.55 per share at market close last Thursday (a 42.7% gain). PayPal is backed by investors such as Sequoia Capital (10.7% ownership), Nokia Ventures (9.6% ownership), Clearstone Venture Partners (6.9% ownership), Thiel Capital Management (5.6% ownership) and Madison Dearborn Partners (5.5% ownership).

Synaptics Inc. (Nasdaq:SYNA), a San Jose, Calif.-based maker of computer touchpads, had the quarter’s smallest offering, but has experienced a larger price percentage hike than any of the other venture-backed offerings. It priced a $55 million deal on Jan. 21 at $11 per share, and closed Thursday at $18.99 per share (a 72.6% gain). Synaptics’ venture investors include National Semiconductor (15.2% ownership), Sprout Group (12.2% ownership), Technology Venture Investors (11.8% ownership), Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (9.4% ownership), Oak Investment Partners (9.4% ownership), Delphi Ventures (6.3% ownership), and Foveon Inc. CEO Dr. Carver Mead (5.6% ownership).

The only loser in the bunch is ZymoGenetics Inc. (NNM:ZGEN), a Seattle-based biopharmaceutical company that executed a $120 million IPO on Feb. 1 at $12 per share. Despite dropping to under $9 a few weeks ago, however, the company’s stock rebounded to close last Thursday at $11.97 per share (basically flat with less than a 0.03% loss). VC investors include Warburg Pincus Equity Partners (33.1% ownership), Patricof & Co. Ventures (10.8%) and Apax Funds (5.1%).

As for a broader picture of VC-backed company results on the public markets, the Venture Economics Post-Venture Capital Index (PVCI), stood at 17.4% as of market close on March 28. The PVCI is a market-cap weighted index of the performance of stock of all venture-backed companies taken public over the past ten years.

Related Debuts

The first quarter of 2002 also witnessed five IPOs from buyout-based companies. Some of these companies once received venture funding, but are not included in the VC-backed figures because the initial liquidation event was through a buyout, not an IPO.

These deals include a $270 million offering from Anteon Corp. (NYSE:ANT), $127.1 million from Asbury Automotive Group Inc. (NYSE:ABG), $100 million from MedSouce Technologies Inc. (Nasdaq:MEDT), $154 million from Integrated Defense Technologies Inc. (NYSE:IDE) and $275.5 million from Petco Animal Supplies Corp. (Nasdaq:PETC).

All of the buyout offerings, with the exception of Asbury Automotive, were trading above offering price at market last Thursday. The average IPO offering price for the deals was $17.5 per share, with the average close yesterday being over $20.47 per share (16.9% average gain).

The only other relevant public offering not listed in the VC-backed numbers was that of Cogent Communications, which went public on Feb. 5 through a reverse merger with Allied Riser Corp. Prior to the merger, Cogent had been backed by such VCs as Broadview Associates, Comdisco Ventures, Jerusalem Venture Partners, Nassau Capital, Oak Investment Partners and Worldview Technology Partners.

Dan Primack can be contacted at: