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2019年的IPO給風投界留下了哪些教訓?

Anne Sraders 2019年11月11日

除了WeWork,很多今年上市的公司在上市前后的估值都出現了巨大的差距。


從470億美元到100億美元,WeWork估值的斷崖式下跌,也算創下了2019年之最了。除了上市失敗的WeWork,還有很多今年上市的公司都遇到了類似的問題,即企業在上市前后的估值存在著巨大的差距。因此,一些私營企業的增長情況不免令人生疑。

首先需要肯定的是,今年美國也不乏IPO成功的案例(比如Zoom Video Communications、Datadog、Pinterest等等),不過失敗的IPO也不在少數,比如Lyft、Uber和Slack,這三家公司的股價比IPO發行價至少下跌了20%。作為剛上市的“獨角獸”公司之一,SmileDirectClub上市后的表現也令投資者感到失望,上市第一天就下跌了28%左右。健身公司Peloton Interactive首日下跌超過11%。WeWork更名為the We Company后,更是直接放棄了年底前上市的打算。面對這種情況,投資者和分析師們都表達了類似的擔憂:今年私人市場和公開市場的估值存在嚴重差異,私人投資者很可能會賠掉不少錢。

喬治城大學金融市場和政策中心主任、金融學教授里納·阿加瓦爾表示:“我認為,這種情況也會影響到私人市場的估值,市場上的過度樂觀情緒將有所消退。”

復興資本(Renaissance Capital)的負責人凱瑟琳·史密斯認為,今年以來,私人市場上的大量流動資本為許多公司提供了充足的資金,其中,對一些公司的投資可以說是過度投資。有了這些私人投資的孵化,企業就不必過分擔心燒錢率或盈利計劃等重要問題。但這種局面也在發生變化。

談到私人市場的資本過剩問題時,史密斯對《財富》雜志表示:“‘不計代價的增長’只在廉價資本時代管用。現在的問題是,它是不是會導致其他公司的資本枯竭?”

有些基金已經因為這個問題而陷入了麻煩,比如軟銀的愿景基金(Uber和WeWork都有它的投資)。在史密斯看來,像WeWork這樣的案例(史密斯稱之為一個“警世寓言”)也指出了投資者必須面臨的一個更廣泛的問題。

“WeWork的例子在流動性上給私人市場敲了警鐘——一家擁有120億美元投資和470億美元潛在估值的公司,為什么無法在公開市場上市?對于每一家私人投資的公司,這都是一個值得警惕的問題。如果你也是私人市場參與者,那么這個案例也給你敲了警鐘——現在他們必須仔細審視自己投資的每一家公司了。”

那么,2019年的這幾個IPO失敗的例子,給私人市場留下了哪些教訓?

審查缺位的風險

華爾街的一些專家指出,在2019年的這幾個IPO中,審查機制的缺位都是一個大問題,特別是對那些蒙受著巨大虧損,卻又有著不切實際的目標(比如Peloton公司的口號是“我們賣的是幸福”。WeWork的口號是“提升全世界的意識”),而且盈利計劃模糊的公司。

Triton是一家專業評估新上市公司的公司,該公司的創始人及首席執行官雷特·華萊士認為:“WeWork走上了一條Lyft走過的老路——如果一家公司巨額虧損,披露做得很糟糕,但又非常傲慢,接下來會發生什么?”華萊士還指出,“巨額的虧損、糟糕的披露、明顯的傲慢”,這“致命三板斧”,是今年失敗的IPO共同的致命傷。

包括阿加瓦爾在內的很多華爾街專家都認為,很多私人市場投資人對這些“獨角獸”公司,錯就錯在“是我給你自由過了火”。她認為,接下來,投資者將會密切關注這些私人公司的商業計劃和虧損情況。曼哈頓風投伙伴公司的研究總監桑斯什·拉奧也表示,投資者現在已經變得非常謹慎了,特別是在Uber和Lyft被“捧得越高摔得越慘”之后。“現在,投資者開始坐下來一條條地看文件了,而不是只關注收入。”

專家們表示,在吸取軟銀等公司的教訓后(軟銀于今年1月向WeWork注資數十億美元,雖然WeWork當時還處于巨額虧損),現在的很多投資者在向這些“不惜一切代價增長”的公司投資前,應該都會三思而后行了。

史密斯表示:“市場起著大浪淘沙的作用,不過我認為,目前的問題是,由風投注資的很多這一類的公司,目前都是不以盈利為導向的,而他們卻被允許這樣經營。”

后期投資的風險

有些專家認為,隨著企業在私人市場上的增長,過度的資本投資使得這些企業的后期融資膨脹到了不合理的水平,也就是史密斯所謂的“過度孵化”。

2019年,WeWork的最后一輪私募融資是由軟銀注資的50億美元,這筆融資也將WeWork的估值抬高到了470億美元。不過考慮到該公司的燒錢率(去年WeWork的開支出收入分別是19億美元和18億美元)和其他一些問題,公開市場投資者心里對這個估值越來越沒底,同時也不愿意認可這個估值。在史密斯看來,這是一次“期待已久的‘對賬’的過程。”

這些對私人投資者又意味著什么?專家表示,有了這些前車之鑒,很多私人市場投資者從此或許將謹慎參與企業的后期融資。

拉奧表示:“我認為,私人投資者將意識到,IPO將不會再出現那種大的起伏,沒有人可以保證上市一定能夠賺錢。因為有些人是后期才投資的,他們既不會有很長的時間展望,也不應該認為自己會通過上市大賺一筆……不過我認為,現在后期幾輪的投資者應該會變得更謹慎。他們會意識到,他們的退出策略未必會有豐厚的回報,或者回報可能會很有限。因此,他們要么得繼續等待,要么就要確保公司有一個堅實的商業模式,能夠經得起公開市場的嚴密審查。”

全球性投資機構Cambridge Associates的常務董事吉爾·肖認為,投資者要想避免這種“后期估值陷阱”,就要做到更加自律,盡量開展早期投資。

他對《財富》雜志表示:“后期的風險投資的成本是極其高昂的。我認為,大量資本涌入后期投資,實際上給早期投資者帶來了好處,因為他們有了另一個退出的機會,因為這些公司會保持私有化更長的時間。所以我們看到的是,一些公司在IPO之前,后期投資者入場時,很多早期投資者完全賣掉了股份,拿錢走人了。他們沒有坐等IPO,所以就算IPO估值并沒有高于前一輪的估值,對他們也沒有什么影響。”

此外他還建議,私人投資者可以與一些有能力鑒別早期投資良機的經理人合作,以避免在一些即將IPO的企業身上賠錢。(就像WeWork的案例,雖然WeWork的上市文件中寫明,如果該公司的IPO表現不佳,WeWork將向軟銀額外提供價值4億美元的股份。可只要它上市,軟銀就不可避免地會賠錢。)

資本干涸的風險

根據Preqin公司近期的一項調查,有74%的受訪投資者認為,我們正處于當前一個股權投資周期的頂峰。咨詢公司麥肯錫的2018年度私人市場年度評估報告顯示,去年約有7780億美元的新增資本流入了私人市場。該報告還指出,2018年,所謂的“超大規模”融資(指規模超過10億美元)達到了25次,占所有風投交易量的25%以上。另據PitchBook公司和全美風險投資協會(National Venture Capital Association)今年1月發布的數據,2018年,美國的風險投資總額約為1310億美元,達到了2000年以來的最高水平。

在復興資本的負責人史密斯看來,私人市場投資早就應該回歸到稍低一些的水平了。

史密斯表示:“一切都是市場的周期率在起作用,資本會向有回報的地方流動和集中。目前,私人市場上集中了大量資本。這些資本會逐漸退出私人市場,當這種情況發生時,將會帶來更多的挑戰。這次是公開市場歷史上持續時間較長的投資周期之一,也是我見過的私人投資領域規模最大的一輪周期。”

在2019年IPO規模最大的一些企業中,有幾家公司的股價已經比發行價下跌了20%以上。面對這種情況,私人投資者也很有可能轉向別處尋找回報。

根據Cambridge Associates在2019年第一季度發布的數據,過去10年間,美國的風投增值回報率事實上還稍遜于標普500指數。Cambridge Associates的常務董事吉爾·肖指出,這主要是由于公開市場的波動性要比私募界強烈得多(當然市場的恢復也是驚人的)。同時他也表示,由于大型基金的投資回報率甚至難以跑贏公開市場,“我們很可能會看到投資的全面收緊。”

“對于私募機構和私人市場上的其他公司……特別是共同基金,它們負有更大的信托責任。總的來說,這將影響到私人市場和公開市場上的估值。”阿加瓦爾對《財富》雜志表示。

“不惜價代增長”模式難以為繼

下一步,很多私人投資者可能會重新審視他們的投資戰略。與此同時,很多公司將變得更加自律,制訂長期化的戰略,確保自己只投資那些成熟的公司。

黑石集團的首席執行官蘇世民最近在接受CNBC采訪時表示:“有些2019年IPO的公司,是不成熟的公司。”

在拉奧看來,作為需要拉到融資的企業,未來要想持續發展,就必須滿足一些標準,尤其是在你已經有了很高的估值,而且你的商業模式還不成熟的情況下。

拉奧表示:“你至少要有一條清晰的盈利路線圖。如果公司私有化經營很長時間了,又有很高的估值,那么你至少要有一個運轉良好、充分成熟的商業模式。我認為大家也都認識到了這個大問題——你不能一上來就要求大家對你的估值跟你自己一樣。”

而像WeWork、Uber和Lyft這種“不惜一切代價增長”的公司,也打破了高估值的大公司不可能在公開市場上失敗的幻覺。

復興資本的負責人史密斯表示:“以前,上市公司的IPO估值都要高于私人融資估值,因為公開市場的流動性本身也是有價值的。現在我擔心的是,這種現象將反噬到私人市場,給私人市場造成一些寒意。”近期幾次IPO的失敗,對一些私人投資者的內部收益率也造成了一定影響,在此背景下,有些投資者很可能會重新考慮該如何重新配置資本。

拉奧也表示:“所有這一切的最終結果,是市場的合理化,估值將變得更合理。現在,公開市場實際上給私人市場上了一課,那就是你不能把任何東西強加給我們,你必須證明你自己。”(財富中文網)

譯者:樸成奎

From $47 billion to $10 billion—potentially one of the largest valuation drops in 2019. As much-criticized WeWork struggled (and ultimately failed) to IPO at a heavy discount, many companies coming to market this year have been having similar problems. Namely, there’s been a huge disparity between private and public valuations for many companies, and some in the private market are growing skeptical.

To be sure, there have been many notable successes (à la Zoom Video Communications, Datadog, Pinterest, to name a few) to debut this year. But 2019’s IPOs also brought us big flops like Lyft, Uber, and Slack—all three of which are down at least 20% from their debut prices. SmileDirectClub, one of the latest massive unicorns to debut, also disappointed investors in the public markets, trading down some 28% on only its first day, and fitness company Peloton Interactive closed over 11% on its first day. With the We Company throwing in the towel on their IPO before year’s end, investors and analysts are expressing similar anxiety: the private markets and the public markets are largely at odds this year, and private investors are due to lose cash.

“I think that it will impact the valuations in the private markets also—the euphoria that has been there will [be] cut back,” says Reena Aggarwal, professor of finance and director of the Georgetown Center for Financial Markets and Policy at Georgetown University.

The abundance of capital floating in the private markets this year has been feeding many companies that those like Kathleen Smith, principal at Renaissance Capital, a provider of institutional research and IPO ETFs, deem bloated. She claims this private funding has “been able to incubate companies” without too much pushback on important things like cash burn or plans for profitability. But this might be changing.

“This growth at all costs only works in the cheap money era,” Smith tells Fortune, referring to the excess capital in the private markets. “The worry is, does it dry up capital for other companies?”

Funds like SoftBank’s Vision Fund (which notably invested in Uber and WeWork) are in the hot seat. To Smith, case studies like WeWork (what she calls a “cautionary tale”) show a broader problem that investors will have to come to terms with.

“WeWork is a liquidity scare for the private markets—how is it possible a company funded with $12 billion of funding and a possible valuation of $47 billion could not get done in the public markets? It has to be a worry for any of these [private] portfolios,” Smith says. “It’s a wakeup call if you’re in the private market—they must be studying every name they have now.”

But what might 2019’s failures teach the private markets?

The perils of lax due diligence

One thing some on the Street suggest was missing from 2019 IPOs was scrutiny—scrutiny of private companies with massive losses, lofty aspirations (think Peloton’s S-1 line “Peloton sells happiness” or We’s goal to “elevate the world’s consciousness”), and vague plans for profitability.

“WeWork is following a path that was blazed by Lyft—what happens when you have huge losses and crappy disclosure and real arrogance,” says Rett Wallace, CEO and founder of Triton, a firm that focuses on evaluating new listings. Wallace suggests that this trio—“big losses, crappy disclosure, and meaningful arrogance”—is a “lethal combination” that bad IPOs had in common this year.

Indeed, those like Aggarwal believe many of these unicorns were “given a little bit of a free hand.” She maintains investors are going to be keeping a closer eye on private companies’ business plans and losses—and Santosh Rao, head of research at Manhattan Venture Partners, suggests that, especially after Uber’s and Lyft’s “hype and then bust,” investors have become very cautious. “Now they’re reading the fine print, they’re not just looking at the revenues,” he says.

In light of those like SoftBank (who poured billions into WeWork as recently as January while the company was sustaining huge losses), experts suggest many private investors will pause before funding more of these growth-at-all-costs companies.

“The market is distinguishing the good from the bad, but I think the issue is that there’s too many of these companies that have been in venture portfolios that have been permitted to operate without a bottom line orientation,” Smith says.

The danger of late stage investing

As companies grow in the private market, some experts believe the excess capital floating around has made companies’ late-stage private rounds swell to unreasonable levels—or, for Smith, to “incubate.”

In 2019 terms, WeWork’s last private round, funded by SoftBank to the tune of around $5 billion, marked the coworking giant up to roughly a $47 billion valuation. But as has been clear, examining the company’s cash burn ($1.9 billion burned on $1.8 billion revenue last year), as well as other problems, is making public investors increasingly anxious—and unwilling—to validate the private markets’ valuation; which, to Smith, is “the long-awaited reconciliation.”

So what does this mean for private investors? Experts suggest many in the private markets may be reticent to get in on companies' later funding rounds.

“I think [private investors are] going to realize that there’s not going to be that big bump that you get at the IPO, there’s no guarantee,” Rao says. “Because some people come in late, either they should have a very long time horizon, or they think they’re going to get a big pop at the IPO, … but I think now you’ll see that the incremental investor in the later rounds will be more cautious, will know that the exits may not be rewarding, or the upside may be limited when they go out, so they’ll have to either wait or make sure that the company has a solid business model [and] that it can withstand the scrutiny of the public market that is going to be very intense.”

One way Jill Shaw, managing director at global investment firm Cambridge Associates, suggests investors avoid this drop is to be disciplined and get in early.

“Late-stage venture capital is incredibly expensive,” Shaw tells Fortune. “I think it’s actually the phenomenon of all this money pouring in to late-stage is actually a benefit to the early-stage investors because it’s another exit opportunity [because] companies are staying private longer—so what we see is, a lot of these early-stage investors are either selling out completely or taking money off the table when you have some of these pre-IPO, late-stage investors coming in. They’re not waiting for the IPO, and they’re not necessarily hurt if the IPO doesn’t price at a higher valuation than the prior round.”

Shaw recommends private investors partner with savvy managers with proven ability to identify good early-stage investments to avoid losing cash in pre-IPO companies (like SoftBank inevitably will if We ever goes public, although some fine print in We’s S-1 could provide SoftBank with $400 million worth of additional shares if the IPO debuts poorly).

(Certain) capital may dry up

According to a recent Preqin survey, 74% of surveyed investors believe we are at the peak of the equity market cycle. In fact, according to consulting company McKinsey & Company’s private markets annual review for 2018, some $778 billion of new capital flowed in to the private markets last year. According to the report, so-called “supersize” funding rounds (those over $1 billion) in venture capital funding reached 25 in 2018—or over 25% of all venture capital deal volume. Investment from venture capital firms also hit their highest levels since 2000, injecting roughly $131 billion into deals last year, according to data published by PitchBook and the National Venture Capital Association in January.

And to Renaissance Capital’s Smith, private market capital may be overdue for a return to lower levels.

“Everything is always about markets going in cycles,” Smith says. “Capital contracts [and] goes to the areas where the returns are. There’s been a lot of capital in the private market—the capital will recede from the private market, and when it does, it will cause a lot more challenges. This is one of the longer cycles ever in the public market, and the biggest cycle in private spending I’ve ever seen.”

With some of 2019’s biggest IPOs off at least 20% from their initial prices, private investors may be turning elsewhere to get better returns.

According to data from Cambridge Associates from the 1st quarter of 2019, U.S. venture capital value-add returns over the past 10 years have actually trailed returns for the S&P 500. Cambridge Associate’s Shaw suggests this return discrepancy has more to do with the dramatic swings in the public market (and more dramatic recovery) than private equity, but concedes that “we’re probably going to be seeing narrowing across the board” as larger funds’ investments have struggled to even beat the public markets at all.

“For the private equity firms and others in the private market … especially the mutual funds, the Fidelities of the world, they have a bigger fiduciary responsibility. Broadly, this will impact valuation going forward for both private markets and public markets,” Aggarwal told Fortune.

Growth-at-all-costs companies are a bust

While many private investors will likely be re-examining their strategy moving forward, many firms are maintaining more disciplined, long-term strategies and ensuring they only invest in mature companies.

Mega private equity firm Blackstone’s CEO Stephen Schwarzman told CNBC recently that “some of [2019 IPOs] are immature companies.”

And for Rao, companies moving forward are going to have to meet some criteria before coming to market with huge private price tags and immature business models.

“The least you can do is have a clear path to profitability,” Rao says. “If they’ve been private for so long and you come with such high valuation, the least you can do is have a very good up and running, fully-baked business model. I think that’s the big realization that people have now; you really can’t come here and demand the same [valuation] that you had.”

Growth-at-all-costs companies like WeWork, Uber, and Lyft seem to be starting to shatter the illusion that big, high-valuation companies can’t lose in the public markets.

“It used to be that public offerings were done at a premium to the private rounds, because public liquidity is worth something—but the concern I’ve got is that this will feed itself into the private market and cause a chill in the private market,” Renaissance’s Smith says. And based on how some of these private investors’ internal rate of returns (IRR) have been hurt by public markdowns, some investors may be reconsidering where (and when) they’re allocating capital.

“The net effect of everything is going to be a good rationalization of the market, the valuations are going to get more reasonable, and now the public market is actually teaching the private market that you really can’t just put anything on us,” Rao suggests. “You have to prove yourself.”

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