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IPO就是敲诈?这位风投大鳄就是这么想的!

IPO就是敲诈?这位风投大鳄就是这么想的!

Shawn Tully 2020年06月19日
这位传奇投资人认为,当前的IPO制度很糟糕。

比尔•格利认为,上市挂牌首日出现的那些轰动的“暴涨”现象标志着年轻公司遭到了利用。图片来源:David Paul Morris—Getty Images

在人们印象中,比尔•格利就是一位外表朴实、气定神闲的硅谷老手。他可以一边在位于湾区的家中后院闲逛,一边信手拈来地指导那些科技天才。一个周二的下午晚些时候,我们通过Zoom视频采访比尔•格利。身穿栗色耐克T恤、头戴棒球帽的格利表示,面向年轻公司的上市体系存在弊端,在某个时刻,他决定承担起修复这一体系的使命。这位投资过Uber、Zillow以及Stitch Fix的Benchmark风险投资人回忆道:“我们当时正在为(软件供应商)Elastic做股票发行规划。我们突然意识到,投资银行给出的股票定价严重偏低,股票市值会在上市挂牌首日上涨7000万美元至8000万美元。”

让格利感到震惊的是,银行打算以牺牲包括Benchmark投资者在内的上市公司所有者为代价,为他们宝贵的客户带来巨大的即时收益。Benchmark合伙人就此召开了一次紧急会议,确定了一种避免将所有“意外之财”拱手交给华尔街的方法:他们要求投资银行家允许Benchmark以投行商定的低价购入大量新股。这样一来,如果挂牌首日的股价如预期般上涨,那些多年来一直为Elastic提供资金的Benchmark原始投资者便可以将这些收益收入囊中。

格利说:“投行给出的股票定价确实很低。但令人难以置信的是,银行家拒绝了我们。他们拒绝给我们一席之地,这样他们就可以为共同基金和对冲基金预留更多股份,从中获取高额的佣金。这时我才意识到我们成了替罪羊。”事实证明,Elastic上市当天股价飙升了94%,由此产生的超过2亿美元的收益归承销商的客户所有,包括Benchmark在内的原始投资者以及Elastic公司都拿不到这笔钱。

也正是因为这样一个转折点,这位身材修长的传奇人物转而成为了风险投资界倡导上市新平台的先锋斗士。他表示:“我早就知道这个上市体系很糟糕,并且我也是防范投行抑价发行IPO的竞价机制的忠实拥护者。但Elastic的上市经历让我坚定了变革上市程序的信念。”格利断言,IPO期间发售股票,或者在诸如此类的股票、债券或大宗商品的销售流程中,所有的公平程序大多具备两个基本要素:市场定价、开放平等的投资者购买渠道。

沿用几十年的上市体系并不满足上述任何一条要素。首先,买方和卖方不能自由竞价,股票价格由牵头发行的投资银行决定。格利说:“银行希望发行预售时每笔交易都能获得30比1的超额认购,这就意味着在意向投资者当中,只有3%的投资人能够获得购买股票的机会。”银行给出的股票定价要远远低于银行以及承销机构认为的首日开盘价,从而创造出这种额外需求。所有基金在承销阶段都拒绝配售,与成群结队的散户投资者一起,在挂牌首日蜂拥而至,引发了那些著名的“暴涨”现象。

“我讨厌暴涨。”格利表示。“投资银行总是在说,暴涨是好事,是一种市场活动,并且商业媒体对股价飙升也是一贯大肆吹捧的态度。这太荒谬了。暴涨恰恰是股价被严重低估的标志。”他指出,华尔街非常擅长将IPO塑造成壮观的大场面:首席执行官可以在挂牌当天敲响纽约证交所的钟声,或者在公司横幅下欢呼。

至于营销和品牌建设,他指出,抑价发行每损失2000万美元就可以买到四个超级碗广告。格利表示,用低价来换取银行全明星分析师承诺的有利报道,这种老式的动机早已不复存在。时任纽约州总检察长的艾略特•斯皮策于2003年建立的所谓“斯皮策法则”在两个阵营之间筑起了一堵墙。格利说:“就连与分析师交谈,投资银行家都要求公司要连线律师。”他表示,现在新上市的公司希望可以与分析师建立直接关系,而这种关系完全超出了上市公司和投资银行之间的关系纽带。

格利还指出,主导交易的投资银行声誉越高,暴涨幅度越大。格利在10月主办的关于IPO改革的会议上发表演讲时指出,纵观过去10年的IPO,若由高盛银行作为主承销商,股价在挂牌日交易中的平均涨幅为33.5%,摩根士丹利紧随其后,其主导的上市平均涨幅为29.2%。

华尔街银行家通常会辩称,顶级投行之所以能保证挂牌首日的股价取得最大涨幅,原因在于他们可以让最好的公司上市。其中的原理是这样的,上市的公司质量越高(高盛和摩根士丹利从中大捞一票),涨幅就越大。在格利看来,这种解释有点可笑。他说:“这种暴涨是上市的成本。除此之外,你去哪里找这种支付最高费用的最优质客户?房地产经纪人卖的房子价格最贵,收取的佣金就最高吗?或者说,评级最高的债券支付的收益率就最高吗?”有观点认为,由顶级投资银行牵头发行股票往往更有威望,这也遭到了格利的抨击。承接1997年亚马逊IPO业务的德意志摩根建富银行不及高盛或摩根士丹利的声名在外,但这丝毫不影响亚马逊的上市前景。格利指出:“上市之后,甚至根本没有人记得负责IPO发行承销的投资银行。”

其次,投资银行几乎将所有投资者拒之门外,只有极少数投资者有机会在给定IPO中购买股票。“承销商希望让90%的顶级客户内部认购。”格利说。“他们为10到15个最大的客户预留了65%到70%的股份。”剩下的则归50家规模较小的基金经理客户所有。同样,即便是那些被选中的少数投资者,也只得到了他们想要股份的3%。不仅如此,美国其他9000只基金和散户投资者通常都得不到任何回报。格利表示:“投资银行故意忽视绝大多数需求。”正是这10到15个最有价值的账户推动了股票定价。在承销过程中,那些大基金往往出价最低,为了取悦他们,投资银行给出的发行价与大基金愿意支付的价格相差无几。这一定价通常要远远低于公开竞价中确定的价格。

哪些客户能够获得最好的服务,其中的决定因素是什么?(或者像一家初创公司的创始人曾经告诉我的那样,“哪些有钱人得到了营养最丰富的牛奶?”这家初创公司后来成为了1999年规模最大的IPO公司之一。)最高的股份配额给了共同基金和对冲基金,这些基金在投资银行从事股票、债券和大宗商品交易,向投资银行支付的佣金最高。佛罗里达大学的金融学教授杰伊•里特是研究上市运作的顶尖学术专家,他说:“这些基金向银行支付的佣金(或称为‘软美元’)要远远高于股票或债券交易的实施成本,以此作为银行让他们参与抑价IPO的回报。”

在格利看来,随着近期又出现了大量的抑价IPO,上市变革的诉求显得尤为紧迫。6月前两周的四笔交易让这一趋势愈发明朗化:上市公司因为抑价IPO而损失的金额高达17亿美元。压价程度之高,以及投资者和经理人的损失高达数十亿美元,这些都让人想起了科技股泡沫期间赚得盆满钵满的华尔街。他表示:“股市行情一直很火爆,由此也带来了更多的IPO。但行情火爆也会导致暴涨的空间更大,正因如此,对于投行而言,IPO市场再次成为了一块大蛋糕。”

如何正确看待这些新股上市堆砌的成本非常重要。1999年和2000年是IPO滥发情况最严重的两年,通过压低科技公司上市股价等手段,华尔街这两年也分别给客户带来了300亿美元和370亿美元的快速获利。以这两年所有交易的美元价值计算,IPO在挂牌首日交易中的平均涨幅为50%。狂热行情结束后,新股发行量和银行家提供的折扣幅度大幅缩水。例如,2016年,美国只有75宗IPO,首日交易总涨幅仅为18亿美元。

从2018年开始,势不可挡的牛市让新股发行市场再度火热起来,去年,有112家公司上市,筹集资金总额高达540亿美元,堪称20年来最大资金量。这些公司为了上市而损失的金额总计70亿美元。这就意味着华尔街银行家把上市公司的股票售价调低了17%,对上市公司而言,这无疑是一笔很高的成本,但这仍然远远低于科技股泡沫期间华尔街50%的降价抛售。

今年又出现了大规模的暴涨现象。从6月2日到6月8日,华尔街主导了四宗大型IPO,最后所有这些IPO都获得了两位数或三位数的涨幅。ZoomInfo、Warner Music、Shift4 Payments以及Vroom分别上涨了61%、31%、46%和118%。四大上市公司总共筹集了29.4亿美元,但在挂牌首日收盘时,售出的股票价值高达46.3亿美元。因此,上市的“成本”就花了17亿美元,或者说,每筹集一美元就要花费63美分,而公司本可以利用这些资金来偿还债务或发展业务。

在这四宗连续性的IPO之前,2020年还启动了41宗IPO,其中另有19宗IPO出现了大幅上涨。今年早些时候的那些IPO对于上市公司而言花费的成本更高:筹集资金额为33.24亿美元,损失金额就达31亿美元。也就是说,每募集一美元,就要损失93美分。截至6月中旬,美国公司通过上市总共获得了63亿美元,而其中48亿美元的即时利润(相当于募集资金的76%)却拱手交给了承销商青睐的基金。里特说:“继2000年科技股泡沫之后,因为IPO而损失的金额又将再创新高。”

抑价造成的76%的损失并不是新上市公司的唯一成本。投资银行通常会收取募集资金总额5%左右的承销费。华尔街收取的总费用也因此增加了大约3亿美元,达到51亿美元。今年,遭遇抑价的19家公司(占到了大型IPO的一大半)实际上每募集一美元就要花费80美分。

更好的上市途径?

对里特来说,IPO抑价数量的激增,以及暴涨现象的复苏,这些可能并不意味着华尔街突然重获了在科技股泡沫中行使的那种权力。相反,他列举了今年发挥作用的两个特殊因素。首先是上市公司中绝大多数都是生物制药公司。截至6月中旬,19家单日涨幅最大的IPO交易中,有15家公司从事先进治疗药物的开发业务,或是新药研发软件供应商,其中包括肿瘤医学公司Black Diamond、ADC以及和Revolution Medicines。

里特称:“生物技术公司的股票很难定价,因为在许多情况下,这些治疗药物要么在试验过程中就宣告失败,要么一鸣惊人。因此,考虑到其中的风险,银行家更容易在承销中争取更低的价格。”其次,就6月前两周在开盘当天出现暴涨的股票而言,银行家早在几个月前市场行情不明朗的时候就开始了谈判。里特说:“银行家擅长管理预期。在市场疲软的形势下磋谈一个较低的价格,通过这种手段,银行家就可以锚定客户对于上市合理价格的看法。”一旦股市反弹,就像他们在5月和6月初所做的那样,银行家可以稍微抬高价格,辩称他们为客户筹集了更多资金,同时仍然坐享新一轮乐观情绪带来的股价飙升。

格利致力于用一种排除了传统IPO这两大缺点的体系作为上市的替代选择。他的解决方案既能保证市场价格、杜绝暴涨,同时所有有意向的大小投资者也都可以获得购买股票的机会。这种解决方案被称为“直接上市”。直接上市类似于Hambrecht & Quist的联合创始人威廉•哈姆布雷特推出的“荷兰式拍卖”平台。事实上,荷兰式拍卖上市是自由市场首次背离老式IPO的一种上市程序。和格利一样,拉里•佩奇和谢尔盖•布林也是上市程序改革的主要支持者,他们在2004年帮助谷歌上市时就采用了荷兰式拍卖模式。

在荷兰式拍卖上市中,所有潜在投资者都必须登录IPO主导公司自己的专利软件。因此,所有基金和个人链接到发行网站的操作可能有点繁杂。直接上市也属于拍卖上市。但直接上市的运作与交易所每天为每只股票设定开盘价的通用程序完全相同。例如,包括Citadel Securities在内的纽约证交所做市商会在交易开始前收集所有出价并询问订单,然后找到“市场出清”价格,即每股售价。高于这个价格的竞价者买不到任何股票,低于这个价格的竞价者则可以顺利完成买入订单。股价最终以该市场价位开盘,这样就不会因为有大量超额订单等待买入而出现股价暴涨。

格利指出:“直接上市的好处在于,每一家基金、以及拥有交易账户的任何投资者都可以像下单买入苹果(Apple)或家得宝(Home Depot)一样对IPO出价。”2018年5月,Spotify成为第一家直接上市挂牌的公司,这也为第二年采用同样模式上市的Slack增加了可靠性。“这太简单了。”里特说。“Spotify和Slake的做市商在IPO中的定价与开盘前的操作与做其他股票没有任何不同。”

到目前为止,直接上市还没有通过出售新发行的股票来筹集资金。雇员和风险投资人可以出售持有的股票,继而确定股票的市场价。之后,发行主体可以重返市场,获得在后续发行中出售的所有新发行股票的全部价值,筹集增长和偿还债务所需资金。这些公司能够在直接上市后以交易确立的全额价值来出售股票,而不是通过投资银行抑价发行IPO筹集新资金。

还是那个问题:为什么这么多的公司仍然采用这种效率低、费用高的老式方法上市呢?格利将IPO比作是一场婚礼,特别是那种光鲜亮丽的南部婚礼弥撒。他说:“公司所有者一生也就经历一两次上市。他们没有上市的经验,也不想承受上市过程中可能出现问题所带来的那种焦虑感。于是,最简单的方法就是不要惹恼任何人,一切按照传统来。”

和格利一样支持直接上市的还有著名投资银行家弗兰克•奎特隆、eBay总裁皮埃尔•奥米迪亚等硅谷巨头。上市程序作为资本市场最后的精英庇护所之一,推动其实现民主化,格利的这一做法无疑是正确的。一边是传统,另一边是公司所有者和雇员得以节约大量成本,以及让市场发挥作用的基本诉求。当创始人在华尔街敲响公司挂牌上市的钟声时,更多的人将敲响姗姗来迟的自由的钟声。(财富中文网)

译者:Shog

在人们印象中,比尔•格利就是一位外表朴实、气定神闲的硅谷老手。他可以一边在位于湾区的家中后院闲逛,一边信手拈来地指导那些科技天才。一个周二的下午晚些时候,我们通过Zoom视频采访比尔•格利。身穿栗色耐克T恤、头戴棒球帽的格利表示,面向年轻公司的上市体系存在弊端,在某个时刻,他决定承担起修复这一体系的使命。这位投资过Uber、Zillow以及Stitch Fix的Benchmark风险投资人回忆道:“我们当时正在为(软件供应商)Elastic做股票发行规划。我们突然意识到,投资银行给出的股票定价严重偏低,股票市值会在上市挂牌首日上涨7000万美元至8000万美元。”

让格利感到震惊的是,银行打算以牺牲包括Benchmark投资者在内的上市公司所有者为代价,为他们宝贵的客户带来巨大的即时收益。Benchmark合伙人就此召开了一次紧急会议,确定了一种避免将所有“意外之财”拱手交给华尔街的方法:他们要求投资银行家允许Benchmark以投行商定的低价购入大量新股。这样一来,如果挂牌首日的股价如预期般上涨,那些多年来一直为Elastic提供资金的Benchmark原始投资者便可以将这些收益收入囊中。

格利说:“投行给出的股票定价确实很低。但令人难以置信的是,银行家拒绝了我们。他们拒绝给我们一席之地,这样他们就可以为共同基金和对冲基金预留更多股份,从中获取高额的佣金。这时我才意识到我们成了替罪羊。”事实证明,Elastic上市当天股价飙升了94%,由此产生的超过2亿美元的收益归承销商的客户所有,包括Benchmark在内的原始投资者以及Elastic公司都拿不到这笔钱。

也正是因为这样一个转折点,这位身材修长的传奇人物转而成为了风险投资界倡导上市新平台的先锋斗士。他表示:“我早就知道这个上市体系很糟糕,并且我也是防范投行抑价发行IPO的竞价机制的忠实拥护者。但Elastic的上市经历让我坚定了变革上市程序的信念。”格利断言,IPO期间发售股票,或者在诸如此类的股票、债券或大宗商品的销售流程中,所有的公平程序大多具备两个基本要素:市场定价、开放平等的投资者购买渠道。

沿用几十年的上市体系并不满足上述任何一条要素。首先,买方和卖方不能自由竞价,股票价格由牵头发行的投资银行决定。格利说:“银行希望发行预售时每笔交易都能获得30比1的超额认购,这就意味着在意向投资者当中,只有3%的投资人能够获得购买股票的机会。”银行给出的股票定价要远远低于银行以及承销机构认为的首日开盘价,从而创造出这种额外需求。所有基金在承销阶段都拒绝配售,与成群结队的散户投资者一起,在挂牌首日蜂拥而至,引发了那些著名的“暴涨”现象。

“我讨厌暴涨。”格利表示。“投资银行总是在说,暴涨是好事,是一种市场活动,并且商业媒体对股价飙升也是一贯大肆吹捧的态度。这太荒谬了。暴涨恰恰是股价被严重低估的标志。”他指出,华尔街非常擅长将IPO塑造成壮观的大场面:首席执行官可以在挂牌当天敲响纽约证交所的钟声,或者在公司横幅下欢呼。

至于营销和品牌建设,他指出,抑价发行每损失2000万美元就可以买到四个超级碗广告。格利表示,用低价来换取银行全明星分析师承诺的有利报道,这种老式的动机早已不复存在。时任纽约州总检察长的艾略特•斯皮策于2003年建立的所谓“斯皮策法则”在两个阵营之间筑起了一堵墙。格利说:“就连与分析师交谈,投资银行家都要求公司要连线律师。”他表示,现在新上市的公司希望可以与分析师建立直接关系,而这种关系完全超出了上市公司和投资银行之间的关系纽带。

格利还指出,主导交易的投资银行声誉越高,暴涨幅度越大。格利在10月主办的关于IPO改革的会议上发表演讲时指出,纵观过去10年的IPO,若由高盛银行作为主承销商,股价在挂牌日交易中的平均涨幅为33.5%,摩根士丹利紧随其后,其主导的上市平均涨幅为29.2%。

华尔街银行家通常会辩称,顶级投行之所以能保证挂牌首日的股价取得最大涨幅,原因在于他们可以让最好的公司上市。其中的原理是这样的,上市的公司质量越高(高盛和摩根士丹利从中大捞一票),涨幅就越大。在格利看来,这种解释有点可笑。他说:“这种暴涨是上市的成本。除此之外,你去哪里找这种支付最高费用的最优质客户?房地产经纪人卖的房子价格最贵,收取的佣金就最高吗?或者说,评级最高的债券支付的收益率就最高吗?”有观点认为,由顶级投资银行牵头发行股票往往更有威望,这也遭到了格利的抨击。承接1997年亚马逊IPO业务的德意志摩根建富银行不及高盛或摩根士丹利的声名在外,但这丝毫不影响亚马逊的上市前景。格利指出:“上市之后,甚至根本没有人记得负责IPO发行承销的投资银行。”

其次,投资银行几乎将所有投资者拒之门外,只有极少数投资者有机会在给定IPO中购买股票。“承销商希望让90%的顶级客户内部认购。”格利说。“他们为10到15个最大的客户预留了65%到70%的股份。”剩下的则归50家规模较小的基金经理客户所有。同样,即便是那些被选中的少数投资者,也只得到了他们想要股份的3%。不仅如此,美国其他9000只基金和散户投资者通常都得不到任何回报。格利表示:“投资银行故意忽视绝大多数需求。”正是这10到15个最有价值的账户推动了股票定价。在承销过程中,那些大基金往往出价最低,为了取悦他们,投资银行给出的发行价与大基金愿意支付的价格相差无几。这一定价通常要远远低于公开竞价中确定的价格。

哪些客户能够获得最好的服务,其中的决定因素是什么?(或者像一家初创公司的创始人曾经告诉我的那样,“哪些有钱人得到了营养最丰富的牛奶?”这家初创公司后来成为了1999年规模最大的IPO公司之一。)最高的股份配额给了共同基金和对冲基金,这些基金在投资银行从事股票、债券和大宗商品交易,向投资银行支付的佣金最高。佛罗里达大学的金融学教授杰伊•里特是研究上市运作的顶尖学术专家,他说:“这些基金向银行支付的佣金(或称为‘软美元’)要远远高于股票或债券交易的实施成本,以此作为银行让他们参与抑价IPO的回报。”

在格利看来,随着近期又出现了大量的抑价IPO,上市变革的诉求显得尤为紧迫。6月前两周的四笔交易让这一趋势愈发明朗化:上市公司因为抑价IPO而损失的金额高达17亿美元。压价程度之高,以及投资者和经理人的损失高达数十亿美元,这些都让人想起了科技股泡沫期间赚得盆满钵满的华尔街。他表示:“股市行情一直很火爆,由此也带来了更多的IPO。但行情火爆也会导致暴涨的空间更大,正因如此,对于投行而言,IPO市场再次成为了一块大蛋糕。”

如何正确看待这些新股上市堆砌的成本非常重要。1999年和2000年是IPO滥发情况最严重的两年,通过压低科技公司上市股价等手段,华尔街这两年也分别给客户带来了300亿美元和370亿美元的快速获利。以这两年所有交易的美元价值计算,IPO在挂牌首日交易中的平均涨幅为50%。狂热行情结束后,新股发行量和银行家提供的折扣幅度大幅缩水。例如,2016年,美国只有75宗IPO,首日交易总涨幅仅为18亿美元。

从2018年开始,势不可挡的牛市让新股发行市场再度火热起来,去年,有112家公司上市,筹集资金总额高达540亿美元,堪称20年来最大资金量。这些公司为了上市而损失的金额总计70亿美元。这就意味着华尔街银行家把上市公司的股票售价调低了17%,对上市公司而言,这无疑是一笔很高的成本,但这仍然远远低于科技股泡沫期间华尔街50%的降价抛售。

今年又出现了大规模的暴涨现象。从6月2日到6月8日,华尔街主导了四宗大型IPO,最后所有这些IPO都获得了两位数或三位数的涨幅。ZoomInfo、Warner Music、Shift4 Payments以及Vroom分别上涨了61%、31%、46%和118%。四大上市公司总共筹集了29.4亿美元,但在挂牌首日收盘时,售出的股票价值高达46.3亿美元。因此,上市的“成本”就花了17亿美元,或者说,每筹集一美元就要花费63美分,而公司本可以利用这些资金来偿还债务或发展业务。

在这四宗连续性的IPO之前,2020年还启动了41宗IPO,其中另有19宗IPO出现了大幅上涨。今年早些时候的那些IPO对于上市公司而言花费的成本更高:筹集资金额为33.24亿美元,损失金额就达31亿美元。也就是说,每募集一美元,就要损失93美分。截至6月中旬,美国公司通过上市总共获得了63亿美元,而其中48亿美元的即时利润(相当于募集资金的76%)却拱手交给了承销商青睐的基金。里特说:“继2000年科技股泡沫之后,因为IPO而损失的金额又将再创新高。”

抑价造成的76%的损失并不是新上市公司的唯一成本。投资银行通常会收取募集资金总额5%左右的承销费。华尔街收取的总费用也因此增加了大约3亿美元,达到51亿美元。今年,遭遇抑价的19家公司(占到了大型IPO的一大半)实际上每募集一美元就要花费80美分。

更好的上市途径?

对里特来说,IPO抑价数量的激增,以及暴涨现象的复苏,这些可能并不意味着华尔街突然重获了在科技股泡沫中行使的那种权力。相反,他列举了今年发挥作用的两个特殊因素。首先是上市公司中绝大多数都是生物制药公司。截至6月中旬,19家单日涨幅最大的IPO交易中,有15家公司从事先进治疗药物的开发业务,或是新药研发软件供应商,其中包括肿瘤医学公司Black Diamond、ADC以及和Revolution Medicines。

里特称:“生物技术公司的股票很难定价,因为在许多情况下,这些治疗药物要么在试验过程中就宣告失败,要么一鸣惊人。因此,考虑到其中的风险,银行家更容易在承销中争取更低的价格。”其次,就6月前两周在开盘当天出现暴涨的股票而言,银行家早在几个月前市场行情不明朗的时候就开始了谈判。里特说:“银行家擅长管理预期。在市场疲软的形势下磋谈一个较低的价格,通过这种手段,银行家就可以锚定客户对于上市合理价格的看法。”一旦股市反弹,就像他们在5月和6月初所做的那样,银行家可以稍微抬高价格,辩称他们为客户筹集了更多资金,同时仍然坐享新一轮乐观情绪带来的股价飙升。

格利致力于用一种排除了传统IPO这两大缺点的体系作为上市的替代选择。他的解决方案既能保证市场价格、杜绝暴涨,同时所有有意向的大小投资者也都可以获得购买股票的机会。这种解决方案被称为“直接上市”。直接上市类似于Hambrecht & Quist的联合创始人威廉•哈姆布雷特推出的“荷兰式拍卖”平台。事实上,荷兰式拍卖上市是自由市场首次背离老式IPO的一种上市程序。和格利一样,拉里•佩奇和谢尔盖•布林也是上市程序改革的主要支持者,他们在2004年帮助谷歌上市时就采用了荷兰式拍卖模式。

在荷兰式拍卖上市中,所有潜在投资者都必须登录IPO主导公司自己的专利软件。因此,所有基金和个人链接到发行网站的操作可能有点繁杂。直接上市也属于拍卖上市。但直接上市的运作与交易所每天为每只股票设定开盘价的通用程序完全相同。例如,包括Citadel Securities在内的纽约证交所做市商会在交易开始前收集所有出价并询问订单,然后找到“市场出清”价格,即每股售价。高于这个价格的竞价者买不到任何股票,低于这个价格的竞价者则可以顺利完成买入订单。股价最终以该市场价位开盘,这样就不会因为有大量超额订单等待买入而出现股价暴涨。

格利指出:“直接上市的好处在于,每一家基金、以及拥有交易账户的任何投资者都可以像下单买入苹果(Apple)或家得宝(Home Depot)一样对IPO出价。”2018年5月,Spotify成为第一家直接上市挂牌的公司,这也为第二年采用同样模式上市的Slack增加了可靠性。“这太简单了。”里特说。“Spotify和Slake的做市商在IPO中的定价与开盘前的操作与做其他股票没有任何不同。”

到目前为止,直接上市还没有通过出售新发行的股票来筹集资金。雇员和风险投资人可以出售持有的股票,继而确定股票的市场价。之后,发行主体可以重返市场,获得在后续发行中出售的所有新发行股票的全部价值,筹集增长和偿还债务所需资金。这些公司能够在直接上市后以交易确立的全额价值来出售股票,而不是通过投资银行抑价发行IPO筹集新资金。

还是那个问题:为什么这么多的公司仍然采用这种效率低、费用高的老式方法上市呢?格利将IPO比作是一场婚礼,特别是那种光鲜亮丽的南部婚礼弥撒。他说:“公司所有者一生也就经历一两次上市。他们没有上市的经验,也不想承受上市过程中可能出现问题所带来的那种焦虑感。于是,最简单的方法就是不要惹恼任何人,一切按照传统来。”

和格利一样支持直接上市的还有著名投资银行家弗兰克•奎特隆、eBay总裁皮埃尔•奥米迪亚等硅谷巨头。上市程序作为资本市场最后的精英庇护所之一,推动其实现民主化,格利的这一做法无疑是正确的。一边是传统,另一边是公司所有者和雇员得以节约大量成本,以及让市场发挥作用的基本诉求。当创始人在华尔街敲响公司挂牌上市的钟声时,更多的人将敲响姗姗来迟的自由的钟声。(财富中文网)

译者:Shog

Bill Gurley is the picture of the folksy, laid-back Silicon Valley vet who's a natural at mentoring the whiz kids of tech as he lounges in his Bay Area backyard. We're speaking via Zoom late on a Tuesday afternoon, and Gurley, attired in a maroon Nike T-shirt and baseball cap, is recalling the moment that set him on a mission to fix the broken system for taking young companies public. "It was when we were planning the offering for [software provider] Elastic," recalls the venture capitalist at Benchmark who backed Uber, Zillow, and Stitch Fix. "We suddenly realized that the investment banks were way underpricing the shares, and that the market cap would jump by $70 [million] to $80 million the first day."

Gurley was appalled that the banks were going to deliver their prized customers gigantic instant gains at the expense of owners, including Benchmark's investors. The partners held an emergency meeting and settled on a way to avoid surrendering all that "free money" to Wall Street: They requested that the investment bankers allow Benchmark itself to purchase a chunk of the new shares at the bargain price. That way, if the price bounced as they expected the first day, those original Benchmark investors who'd been funding Elastic for years would pocket the gains.

"That's how far off the price was," says Gurley. "But would you believe it, the bankers turned us down. They refused to give us a position so they could reserve more for the mutual and hedge funds that pay them big commissions. It was then that I realized we were the patsies." As it turned out, the stock rocketed 94% on opening day, so that gains of over $200 million went to the underwriters' clients, not to original investors like Benchmark, or into the company's coffers.

It was also the turning point that transformed the lanky legend into the venture capital world's leading crusader for a new platform for public offerings. "I already knew the system was bad and was a big fan of auctions that prevented investment banks from underpricing shares," he says. "But the Elastic experience convinced me to fight for change." Gurley asserts that any fair process for selling shares in IPOs, or all stocks, bonds, or commodities for that matter, most provide two essentials: prices established by the market, and access to all investors seeking to partake in the sale.

The system that has reigned for many decades fails on both counts. First, prices are set not by buyers and sellers bidding freely, but by the investment banks leading the offerings. "The banks want every deal to be oversubscribed 30 to 1 when they presell the offering, meaning that just 3% of the investors who want to own shares get to buy them," says Gurley. The banks create all that extra demand by setting the price well below where they, and the institutions they're selling to, think it will open the first day. All the funds denied allocations in the underwriting phase, along with hordes of retail investors, pile in at the opening, sparking those famous "pops."

"I hate pops," says Gurley. "You keep hearing from the investment banks that pops are a good thing, that they're a marketing event, and the business press keeps praising the big run-ups. That's ridiculous. The pops are just a sign that the shares were way underpriced." He notes that Wall Street is great at selling the IPO as image-building spectacle where CEOs get to ring the bell at the NYSE or cheer framed by their company banner on opening day.

As for marketing and brand-building, he notes that every $20 million left on the table could buy four Super Bowl ads. The old incentive of trading a low price for a pledge of favorable coverage by the banks' all-star analysts is long gone, says Gurley. The so-called "Sptizer Rule" established in 2003 by then New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer establishes a wall between the two camps. "An investment banker needs a lawyer on the line even to talk to an analyst," says Gurley. Newly-public companies now pursue their own relationships with the analysts, he says, that are completely outside the their ties to the investment banks.

Gurley also notes that pops are biggest when the most prestigious investment banks are leading the deals. In a presentation at a conference on reforming IPOs he sponsored in October, Gurley cited that over the past 10 years, when Goldman Sachs is head underwriter, prices spiked 33.5% on average during open day trading, and Morgan Stanley ranked second, scoring jumps of 29.2%.

Wall Streeters frequently argue that the top investment banks secure the biggest pops because they get to take the best companies public. The idea is that the higher the quality of the company going public—and the Goldmans and Morgan Stanleys get the cream—the bigger the run-up. To Gurley, that explanation rates as surreal. "The pop is a cost of going public," he says. "Where else do you find that the highest-quality customers pay the biggest fees? Do real estate agents charge the highest commissions on the most expensive houses? Or the highest-rated bonds pay the highest yields?" He also rejects the notion that having a top name lead the offering conveys a lasting emblem of prestige. That Deutsche Morgan Grenfell, not Goldman or Morgan Stanley, led Amazon's 1997 IPO did nothing to harm its prospects. "After the offering, nobody even remembers what investment bank led the IPO," says Gurley.

Second, investment banks deny access to all but a tiny sliver of investors seeking to purchase shares in a given IPO. "The underwriters seek to get 90% of their top clients to subscribe," says Gurley. "They reserve 65% to 70% of the shares for their 10 to 15 biggest accounts." The rest goes to 50 smaller money manager clients. Once again, even those chosen few get only 3% of the shares they want. And neither America's other 9,000 funds, nor retail investors, typically get anything. "The banks intentionally ignore the vast majority of the demand," says Gurley. It's those 10 to 15 top most prized accounts, he says, that drive the pricing. During the underwriting process, those big funds are the lowest bidders, and to please them, the investment banks set the offering price near what they want to pay. That number is often far below where the price would settle in an open auction.

What determines which customers get the best treatment (or "which fat cats get the rich milk," as a founder of a startup that became one of 1999's biggest IPOs once told me?). The most generous allocations go to mutual and hedge funds that do their stock, bond, and commodity trading at the investment banks and pay the largest commissions. "The funds repay the banks for putting them into underpriced IPOs by paying commissions, or 'soft dollars,' far in excess of the costs of executing the stock or bond trades," says Jay Ritter, a finance professor at the University of Florida who's the leading academic expert on the workings of public offerings.

For Gurley, the quest for reform is especially urgent right now because of a fresh flare-up in underpricing. Highlighting the trend are four deals in the first two weeks of June that left the staggering total of $1.7 billion "on the table." The extent of lowballing, and the billions investors and managers sacrificed, recalls Wall Street's feast during the tech bubble. "The stock market has been hot, which led to more IPOs," he says. "But a hot market also leads to bigger pops, which made the IPO market great again for the investment banks."

It's important to put the costs heaped on these new offerings in perspective. The peak of IPO abuse came in 1999 and 2000, when Wall Street bestowed $30 billion and $37 billion respectively in quick profits, chiefly by underpricing tech crowd-pleasers. Based on dollar value of all the deals in those two years, the IPOs delivered average gains of 50% on their first days of trading. The volume of new offerings, and the depth of the discounts the bankers provided, shrank substantially after the frenzy ended. In 2016, for example, the U.S. saw only 75 IPOs, and total first-day jumps of merely $1.8 billion.

Starting in 2018, the raging bull market recharged new offerings, and last year 112 recruits debuted, raising $54 billion, the biggest haul in two decades. The amount they sacrificed in debut spikes totaled $7 billion. That means Wall Street sold their shares at what amounted to a 17% markdown—costly to be sure, but way below Wall Street's 50% take during the tech bubble.

This year, huge pops returned in force. From June 2 to June 8, Wall Street hosted four big IPOs, and all of them took scored double- or triple-digit sendoffs. ZoomInfo jumped 61%, Warner Music 31%, Shift4 Payments 46%, and Vroom 118%. All told, the big four raised $2.94 billion, and yet the shares they sold were worth $4.63 billion at the end of close of their first day as public companies. Hence, it "cost" $1.7 billion, or 63 cents for every dollar raised in forgone funds that could have gone to paying down debt or growing the business.

Prior to that quartet of back-to-back offerings, 41 IPOs launched in 2020, and of those, another 19 popped in a big way. Those earlier offerings got an even worse deal, raising $3.324 billion, and leaving $3.1 billion on the table, for a bite of 93 cents for every dollar collected. All together, through mid-June, U.S. companies have harvested $6.3 billion and effectively handed $4.8 billion in instant profits, equivalent to 76% of the dollars raised, to funds favored by the underwriters. "The U.S. is on pace for the largest amounts left on the table since the craze of 2000," says Ritter.

The 76% hit from underpricing isn't the sole cost to new issuers. The investment banks typically charge around 5% of the amount raised in underwriting fees. That raises Wall Street's total toll by around $300 million, to $5.1 billion. This year, the 19 companies experiencing underpricing, accounting for most of the big IPOs, are effectively paying 80 cents for every dollar raised.

A better way to go public?

For Ritter, the jump in the number of underpriced IPOs, and the return of gigantic pops, probably doesn't signal the Wall Street has suddenly regained the kind of power it exercised in the tech bubble. Rather, he cites a two special factors at work this year. The first is the high proportion of biopharma offerings. Through mid-June, fifteen of the nineteen deals showing the biggest one-day gains are developing advanced therapeutics or providing software for drug discovery, among them oncology specialists Black Diamond, ADC and Revolution Medicines.

"Biotech deals are extremely hard to price because in many cases the therapies could either fail in trials or become blockbusters," says Ritter. "So given their riskiness, it's easier for the bankers to push for lower prices in the underwriting." Second, for the offerings that took off on opening day during the first two weeks in June, the bankers began negotiations when the market were reeling months earlier. "The bankers are good at managing expectations," says Ritter. "By talking about a low price in a down market, they can anchor the client's view of a fair price for going public." When stocks rebound, as they did in May and early June, the bankers can bump the price a bit, argue their raising more money for the clients, and still get the benefit of a super-pop courtesy of the new surge in optimism.

Gurley is campaigning to replace traditional IPOs with a system that eliminates their two shortcomings. His solution would both guarantee market prices, sans pops, and grant access to any investors, big or small, that seek to purchase the shares. The solution is called "direct listing." It's similar to the "Dutch auction" platform launched by William Hambrecht, cofounder of Hambrecht & Quist. Dutch auctions, in fact, were the first free-market departure from old-fashioned IPOs. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, major proponents of reform alongside Gurley, used a Dutch auction in their public offering for Google in 2004.

In a Dutch auction, the firm hosting the IPO uses its own proprietary software that all potential investors must access, so it can be a chore for all the funds and individuals to link to the offering site. Direct listing are also auctions. But they operate exactly like the universal process that the exchanges deploy to set opening prices every day, for every stock. For example, market makers on the NYSE such as Citadel Securities collect all the bids and ask orders prior to the start of trading and find the price "that clears the market," the price at which every share gets sold. The bidders above that price get no shares, and those below get their orders fully filled. The shares open at that market level, and don't jump because of a flood of excess orders waiting in the wings.

"The advantage to direct listings is that every fund, and anyone with a brokerage account, can bid on an IPO just as they put in orders every day for Apple or Home Depot," says Gurley. The marquee maiden offering was Spotify's successful IPO in May 2018 and gained credibility with Slack's offering a year later. "It's so simple," says Ritter. "The marketmakers for Spotify and Slack didn't do anything different to set their price in the IPO than they do for any other stock, every day, before the opening."

To date, direct listings haven't sold newly issued shares to raise capital. They allow employees and VC backers to sell stock and hence establish a market price. Then the issuers can go back into the market and get full value for any newly issued stock sold in a follow-on offering, raising raise cash to fund growth and repay debt. The companies get to sell shares at full value established by the trading following the direct listing, rather than raising new cash via IPOs underpriced by the investment banks.

Still, the question remains: Why do so many companies still go public the inefficient, expensive, old-fashioned way? Gurley compares an IPO to a wedding, especially a high-gloss Southern nuptial. "The owners do it once or twice in their lifetimes," he says. "This is something they've never been through before, and they don't want to suffer the anxiety that something might go wrong. So the easy way is not to ruffle any feathers and do what's traditional."

Joining Gurley in supporting direct listings are such Silicon Valley stalwarts as famed investment banker Frank Quattrone and eBay chairman Pierre Omidyar. Gurley is right to push for democratizing one of the last elitist refuges in the capital markets. On one side is tradition, on the other huge savings for owners and employees, and the basic appeal of letting the market do its thing. When the founders sound the opening bell on Wall Street as their stocks debut, a lot more will be sounding the bell for freedom that's long overdue.

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