Investing Tips: Introduction To Ipos, How To Maximize Profits

An overview of IPOs (Initial Public Offerings), some advantages and disadvantages, how to invest and maximize profit.

In the confusing world of the stock market - and its fondness for acronyms - an IPO is an initial public offering - simply meaning when a company sells shares of its stock to the public for the first time. Before it becomes an IPO, a company is privately held, meaning its ownership falls into the hands of a select few, and it isn't listed on any Stock Exchange.

So how and why does a company decide to become an IPO? The reason is usually a financial one - a large company stands to make a lot of money from the sale of its shares. The company will try to anticipate exactly how much profit and what the capital will be used for - for example to fund expansion or development. The company's management decides on a particular day that the shares will be made available, and of course the anticipated asking price, with guidance from at least one investment firm. The 1990s saw many small start-up companies selling large amounts of stock through usually well-publicized and successful ventures, which has made the IPO popular among small and large investors alike.

Investing in IPOs can be risky and unpredictable though, and many investors advise against it unless you are particularly experienced and knowledgeable. One of the difficulties is that there is no existing track record as to how the shares will perform over time. Much of the profit and risk potential of buying shares in an IPO depends also upon the state of the stock market at that particular time, the level of interest and even the general economy.



So how does one try to make a profit from these investments? Sometimes it depends on who you know as well as what you know. If you are lucky enough to work for the company in question, you may be offered a number of shares at a substantial discount or even have them given to you. Many IPOs are heavily oversubscribed, meaning there are more offers to purchase shares than there are available shares; in this situation, an employee or client would be given preference. This is one of the drawbacks of IPO's - the majority of the shares may be allocated or offered first to employees, retirees, clients, etc. rather than the general public. If you have some kind of established relationship with the company or the investment bank they are using, it gives you an advantage.

Do some research on the company that is intending to put out an IPO. There are many different financial newspapers, journals and websites that provide information and forecasts. The company is also required by Federal law to put out a prospectus detailing the offer, although this can be a lengthy and confusing document. Pay particular attention to the most recent earnings of the company as well as their projected earnings. Is the company you are planning to invest in solvent? Do they borrow money heavily to repay debts? Find out what the company's product or service is, who its competitors are and what percentage of market share it has. A company whose product or service is seasonal or temporary might not be a profitable long-term investment.

One of the most attractive features of IPOs is that the shares offered are usually priced very low. In fact many a companies' stock price can increase significantly during the day that the shares are offered, occasionally as much as 500 %. If you are fortunate enough to move quickly and buy the shares as soon as they are put out, you can sell them again that same day for at least a small profit. Many "˜speculative' investors are more interested in this short-term profit potential rather than any long-term gains. If you are an "income" investor, you are more concerned with the company's long-term profits and dividend potential.

Some serious investors advise that rather than buy shares when the company is first launched, you should wait a while - say a period of several months - even years - to get a better feel for how the company is doing financially. The share price usually "˜settles down' after the initial excitement, and you can get a better idea whether it's a good buy or not. In the long run, this can be a safer way to make a profit rather than buying shares at once.

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