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Uber IPO listing joins year of the unicorn IPOs

More than US$5.5b in IPOs raised in past three weeks; Pinterest and Zoom also rushing to join public markets

New York

IF YOU thought the past few weeks were a busy time for US initial public offerings, just wait for the next wave of listings.

Since the federal commission that oversees IPOs reopened after the partial US government shutdown stymied activity at the start of the year, companies have rushed to join the public markets.

Fifteen companies raised more than US$5.5 billion in IPOs on US exchanges in the past three weeks, more than three times the total raised by 22 companies in the first 11 weeks of the year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

That amount is likely to be eclipsed several times over in the next month as high-profile tech startups including Uber Technologies Inc, Pinterest Inc and Zoom Video Communications Inc join the unicorns - private companies valued at more than US$1 billion - dashing to market.

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Uber, which is seeking to raise about US$10 billion, could publicly file its IPO documents as soon as Thursday, people familiar with the matter said. It'll be the first chance for detail-hungry potential investors to look at hundreds of pages of in-depth information on the ride-sharing giant's business plans.

Add to that the US$3 billion that other companies, including Pinterest and Zoom, are seeking to raise in the next 30 days, and it's clear that the 2019 IPO tsunami is on its way.

Levis, TradeWeb, Levi Strauss & Co started the IPO flood in March with its US$623 million offering, followed closely by Uber rival Lyft Inc, which raised US$2.34 billion. Bank-backed Tradeweb Markets Inc topped US$1 billion in its IPO on April 3, rounding out the trio of the year's biggest listings worldwide - so far - as well as in the US.

Not all of them are thriving. While Levi Strauss and Tradeweb are trading well above their IPO prices, Lyft has slipped in its two weeks as a public company. Shares closed at a record low of US$60.12 on Wednesday, well below the US$72 per share IPO price.

Still, even Uber's listing, likely to start trading in May, could be only the leading edge of the surge to come. Others considering going public include Slack Technologies Inc, Postmates Inc, Palantir Technologies Inc and Airbnb Inc.

In Europe, where activity has been shaky, the drought is breaking. Three IPOs are set to price in April that could raise a total of more than US$5.7 billion. Network International Holdings Ltd surged in London trading on Wednesday after raising £1.1 billion (S$1.95 billion) in the biggest listing in Europe this year. Fellow payments firm Nexi SpA could raise as much as 2.2 billion euros (S$3.36 billion) in an IPO expected to price on Thursday while Stadler Rail AG is seeking as much as US$1.4 billion this week.

In total, as much as US$80 billion could be raised in US IPOs alone this year, double the yearly average since 1999, Goldman Sachs Group Inc predicted in November -- an estimate that may prove low. BLOOMBERG

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