In the days since the highly anticipated opening of Facebook turned into a flop last week, the impact has become worse as would-be issuers have taken a second look at what they’re getting into.
In one of the latest setbacks, Kayak, a discount travel Web site, didn’t like what it saw and postponed its initial public offering on Wednesday, a person briefed on the matter said. The company’s roadshow for investors, which was expected to begin soon, has been delayed for the time being, this person said.
Another company, Graff Diamonds, a high-end jeweler, said that it was pulling its initial offering in Hong Kong, citing “adverse market conditions” that made attracting potential investors difficult.
Not all initial public offering troubles can be pinned on Facebook. Europe’s economic woes have worsened and investors are seeking safety, not the risk of new stock issues from companies with little public track record.
Still, Facebook, by failing to instill confidence among investors and executives, has made a weak market weaker. No offerings have priced since Facebook’s debut on May 18. And as of Wednesday, only one company, Loyalty Alliance Enterprise, was set to go public anytime in the near future.
“The current market is on hold,” said James Krapfel, an analyst with Morningstar Research. Facebook’s shares have fallen nearly 26 percent since their opening, and that, he added, has “really put a damper on investors’ enthusiasm for I.P.O.’s.”
A senior I.P.O. banker put it more bluntly, saying, “It’s pretty ugly out there.”
Subtract Facebook from the initial public offering data for the year to date, and 2012 is shaping up to be one of the worst years since 2007. So far this year, 73 companies have priced offerings, raising $29.1 billion, according to Thomson Reuters.
Facebook alone accounts for $16 billion of those proceeds, or more than half of the activity for the year to date.
And several companies that successfully brought offerings to market earlier this year, like the private equity firm Carlyle Group, priced below their expected range. Others, like BrightSource Energy and the aluminum products maker Aleris, withdrew their offerings altogether.
The sagging market for new offerings reflects diminished investor confidence in stocks broadly. I.P.O.’s, experts say, are among the riskiest financial offerings one can invest in. Buying into a deal means making a bet on a relatively unproven management team and a company with limited insight into its financial performance.
One traditional way of enticing new investors is to price initial offerings at a small discount. But amid the turmoil of recent weeks, the institutions that buy shares in these deals are demanding progressively more protection against busted offerings. That translates into weaker prices for initial public offerings, creating a gap that sellers are increasingly unwilling to bridge.
“Just because markets have been bad for a month, corporate sellers haven’t come off their views on valuation,” one senior I.P.O. banker said. “But people in the marketplace who feel this every day have certainly stepped back.”
While a number of companies have offerings on file — including Michaels Stores, the arts and crafts retail giant; Fender Musical Instruments; Intelsat, a satellite operator; and Bloomin’ Brands, the owner of the Outback Steakhouse chain — bankers say that their owners are more likely to wait for markets to stabilize than risk selling their holdings for less than their worth.
These sellers include private equity firms that had hoped to sell minority stakes of their portfolio companies, with the aim of eventually cashing out their investments. But unless such owners have a pressing need to go forward soon, they will not risk generating lower-than-expected returns by staging initial public offerings at low prices.
The offerings that will price soon are likely to be smaller deals that are valued conservatively, these dealmakers say.
“It’s going to be a slow summer,” Mr. Krapfel of Morningstar said.
Attended by no small amount of hype and hoopla, Facebook’s offering had been seen as the spark that would rev up the market. Instead, the offering now looms large as an example of what could go wrong. The company’s debut was beset by severe trading problems and investor worries that its nearly $105 billion valuation was unjustifiably rich.
The offering broke below its offer price on its second day of trading and has tumbled well below its initial public offering price of $38 since. Shares of the social network fell again on Wednesday, closing at $28.19 after having briefly dipped below $28.
Facebook alone cannot answer for all the problems that companies going public are encountering. Kayak, for instance, first filed for an I.P.O. in the fall of 2010, and as recently as last fall had put its plans on ice because of market volatility. Kayak’s lead underwriting bank happens to be same as Facebook’s — Morgan Stanley.
Persistent questions about the health of European economies, their impact on the United States, and whether the euro monetary union will disband have weighed on the broader markets.
“The $1 trillion drop in the value of U.S. equities since the beginning of May has had a bigger impact on I.P.O. activity than the drop in Facebook,” said Jay Ritter, the Cordell professor of finance at the University of Florida. “Facebook’s fall from a $104 billion valuation is a one-of-a-kind phenomenon.”
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