The first quarter of 2017 was another good quarter for technology company exits. We saw a number of very high profile tech company initial public offerings (IPOs) come to market, which is extremely encouraging given the limited activity we saw in 2016.
On the merger and acquisition (M&A) side of things, we saw an equally positive trend with the number of technology M&A transactions coming in at 638 for the quarter, a healthy increase over the prior two quarters.
Let’s break down the first quarter technology IPO and M&A markets in North America in more detail and look at what these results mean for the year ahead.
The IPO market
As you can see from the chart below, IPO dollar volume increased significantly in the first quarter, with nearly $4 billion of IPOs pricing in the quarter. Obviously, much of this was driven by Snap’s $3.4 billion IPO, but it is still encouraging for the tech IPO market as a whole given the limited volume of new technology company issuance we have seen over the preceding 12 months.
A closer look at the four tech IPOs in the first quarter shows another important trend: All of the IPOs have made investors money – on average they are up 22 percent since IPO. This is important because it means tech IPOs as an “asset class” are outperforming the broader markets and are therefore encouraging investors to invest in future IPOs. You can see this trend in the table below.
Given this performance, I would expect the IPO markets to be just as robust for the rest of the year as public-market investors continue to look to outperform the broader markets and venture capitalists look to continue exiting their better-performing portfolio companies.
The M&A market
The technology M&A market continues to remain extremely robust, with $28.1 billion of transactions being completed in the first quarter. While this was down from the $86.4 billion in the fourth quarter of 2016, the overall number of transactions was up, from 599 in 4Q16 to 638 in 1Q17. The overall change in value was driven by the fact that the fourth quarter had several blockbuster transactions like CenturyLink’s acquisition of Level3 for $25 billion.
All in all, I am very encouraged by what I am seeing in the M&A market, as the number of transactions is up for the second quarter in a row and there was year-over-year growth in the dollar volume of transactions. I am also encouraged by many of the positive macro factors that continue to fuel the M&A market, including large corporate cash balances, slowing organic growth, and a relatively strong equity market. These factors should remain in place for much of 2017 and will likely lead to another record year for technology M&A.
Ed Bryant is President and CEO of Sampford Advisors, an M&A advisory firm for Canadian technology companies. Ed has over 20 years of experience, including over 17 years in investment banking with Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley, and Sampford in Hong Kong, Singapore, New York, and now Ottawa. In that time, he has raised in excess of $20 billion in equity and debt capital and completed over $10 billion in M&A transactions.