Chart of the day: When U.S. companies IPO abroad

By Felix Salmon
May 27, 2011
Guan came to the rescue and provided me with exactly what I was looking for -- and with Thomson Reuters data, no less!

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As I secretly hoped that he might, Guan came to the rescue and provided me with exactly what I was looking for — and with Thomson Reuters data, no less! (It comes from SDC Platinum, I should probably befriend someone there.) I wanted a chart of the ratio of foreign IPOs to domestic ones, for U.S. companies, on a rolling five-year basis, to see whether the current level around 10% constitutes a big spike upwards. And the answer is that yes, it does:


Guan cautions that the data from before 1980 or so might not be particularly reliable, since it’s hard to know when a U.S. company lists abroad unless you’re a truly global company. But that doesn’t really matter: the proportion of IPOs of U.S. companies which took place abroad only cracked 2% for the first time in 1999. It stayed between 1% and 2.5% all the way from 1998 through 2004, and then it suddenly started spiking: 7.1% in 2005, 8.4% in 2006, 9.3% in 2007, and a whopping 15.7% in 2008, when 6 companies had IPOs abroad and only 38 managed the feat domestically.

On an absolute rather than percentage level, the record year was 2007, when there were 24 foreign IPOs; there’s a three-way tie for second place, with 17 foreign IPOs in each of 1999, 2005, and 2006.

In any case, the thick blue line is what I was looking for, and it’s going up and to the right about as fast as any five-year moving average is ever likely to.

My next project, which maybe I can find someone at SDC Platinum to help me with, is to have a look at all those U.S. companies which had an IPO abroad — there are 157 of them, altogether — and work out how many of them ended up getting a fully-fledged US listing. Could a listing on, say, London’s AIM end up being a reasonably common bunny slope for U.S. companies which want a cheaper and gentler introduction to the world of being public than a major listing on the New York Stock Exchange?


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