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November 17, 2004
Research by Ljunqvist and Wilhelm: Prospect Theory and IPOs
Topic: 4) A Random Walk
There is an interesting finance, organizational behavior, and initial public offering (IPO) puzzle addressed at the following blog.

The puzzle stems from the following. Why is it that many IPOs are dramatically underpriced? How can it be that in a matter of 30-90 days that companies (e.g., Google) can be trading close to 100% more than than their original IPO price? Did the company actually undertake some activities in 30-90 days that could double its enterprise value by billions of dollars? Hard to imagine in the absence of big news or other dramatic market changes.

Now aside from investment banking mechanics of making a market for taking a company public, it seems as though company shareholders would be somewhat upset by leaving so much on the table. If an IPO could have raised $2X billion for a company instead of $X billion, wouldn't you be upset as a CEO of that company?

Apparently not according to academic research. According to the blog article referenced above, "In trying to explain IPO underpricing, Loughran and Ritter (2002, RFS) suggested that CEOs may not be concerned about leaving money on the table in IPOs because the losses are netted against the rises in stock price in the secondary market." The article goes on to say, "Ljunqvist and Wilhelm now test this and find that it seems to hold ... They find that when the CEO wealth increases significantly in the IPO process (and hence presumably the CEO is a 'happy customer'), the firm is more likely to stick with the same underwriter, even if there was significant underpricing in the IPO ... In more technical language, the idea that the CEO is less concerned about what is left on the table because (s)he is making money anyways is essentially prospect theory."

I'm not arguing with the research. Perhaps I'm old fashioned, but whatever happened to fiduciary responsibility?

Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group

Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 4:16 PM CST
Updated: November 17, 2004 4:30 PM CST
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