IPOs make a comeback, but it’s a shaky one

There were 15 or 17 venture-backed initial public offerings in the second quarter of 2010, depending on who’s counting. That’s the most since 2007. But both Dow Jones VentureSource and the National Venture Capital Association, which issued reports on the IPO market today, agree that IPOs are still on unsteady ground. That’s why several companies canceled their planned IPOs during the quarter.

Most newly public firms are now trading below their entry price. A few did well, led by Tesla Motors, which raised $226 million this week. But just yesterday, Korean chip maker MagnaChip canceled its planned $250 million IPO on the New York Stock Exchange. MagnaChip joins mobile TV chip vendor Telegent and solar cell maker Solyndra in backing away from the stock market.

“Volumes paint only half the picture,” Mark Heesen, president of the NVCA, wrote in a prepared statement accompanying the group’s report. “Post-IPO performance must improve overall if we want to move towards a sustainable recovery.”

The median time from creation to IPO for the companies that did go public was 5.1 years, with a median of $18 million in venture backing. That’s the same amount of capital as a year ago, but it’s a 16 percent increase in time to IPO and the longest median time since VentureSource began tracking IPOs in 1992.

VentureSource says there are 41 companies in the IPO pipeline right now. As a raw number, it’s encouraging, but it’s not 1999 coming around again.

Both VentureSource and the NVCA also reported that mergers and acquisitions were soft in the second quarter. But it’s important to understand that M&A isn’t down because IPOs are up. Overall, the exit market is in trouble.