Soaring valuations, low borrowing costs fuel January fundraising bonanza

Exuberant share valuations and rock-bottom borrowing costs made it a bumper January for dealmakers in the equity as well as debt space, data shows, with global bond sales topping $600 billion and IPOs more than doubling on the year.

World stocks had stepped back off record highs on the last trading day of the month, unnerved by the tussling between hordes of small-time traders and big hedge funds but the equity raising juggernaut continued, with bootmaker Dr Martens seeing bumper demand for its IPO and surging 16% on debut.

Dealmaking too shows no sign of flagging; A potential 3-billion-euro sale of Bertelsmann’s stake in a French TV company to Vivendi and Altice Europa.

Here is some data on capital market milestones for January from financial information provider Dealogic:

1/GOING PUBLIC
Equity raising surged last year as pandemic-hit companies sought to raise capital and others took advantage of soaring stock markets to list shares. Dealogic data showed $49.2 billion worth of initial public offerings (IPO) in January, compared to $11.6 billion a year ago.

IPO volumes had dwindled for years prior to 2020 as more companies tapped private equity funding. But the recovery will likely continue, not least because huge demand for equities offers private equity managers a lucrative opportunity to exit their investments.

It was a record January for emerging market IPOs too, comprising $16.8 billion of the total and doubling from January 2020.

“Stock market valuations have held up strongly and we have had a raft of strong businesses and unicorns reaching the right stage of maturation at the right time,” said one European banker who manages IPOs.

2/BUMPER FOR BONDS
Global borrowers issued $619 billion worth of bonds in January, though this fell short of last January’s $662 billion high. Issuers paid little attention to a mid-month rise in U.S. 10-year yields, using record low global borrowing costs to lock in funding.

There was a noticeable move towards debt maturing 30, 50 or 100 years in future. Slovenia was the latest, selling a 60-year bond on Thursday.

Marc Baigneres, Head of Western Europe, Japan & Australia investment-grade finance at J.P. Morgan said issuance was “defensive and offensive.”

“Hybrid debt, for example, can be used to shore up corporates if ratings are under pressure, but can also be used to make acquisitions,” Baigneres said.

Emerging market borrowers meanwhile sold $120 billion, flirting with the record set in Jan. 2020, driven by investment grade issuers. Prominent deals included Saudi Arabia raising $5 billion and Airport Authority Hong Kong’s $1.5 billion deal.

Cristian Maggio, a strategist at TD Securities attributed the hefty issuance to big redemptions which he expects will lighten in February, with “some moderation in new paper hitting the primary market going forward.”

3/ MERGER MANIA
Monthly M&A activity totalled $314 billion, the fifth best January on record. That comes after a stop-start 2020 that saw dealmaking slump at the height of the pandemic, only to surge in the second half to $1.1 trillion.

Prominent deals included French luxury group LVMH closing on its $15.8 billion acquisition of Tiffany and Global Infrastructure Partners’ $4.63 billion purchase of Signature Aviation.

The dealmaking world remains abuzz; Aside from the Bertelsman/Vivendi/Altice reports while UK retailer BooHoo is swooping on Debenhams and several other fashion chains.