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No IPOs in Africa in first half of 2021, as global activity set to hit historic high

By Tope Templer Olaiya
21 June 2021   |   3:00 am
There were no cross-border Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) on African exchanges in the first half of 2021 (H1 2021) according to a new Baker McKenzie analysis released at the weekend.

Map of Africa. Photo: THECONVERSATION

There were no cross-border Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) on African exchanges in the first half of 2021 (H1 2021) according to a new Baker McKenzie analysis released at the weekend. 

But on a global scale, the Baker McKenzie analysis notes that at the global level, this year’s capital raising has reached a new high watermark, a 220 per cent spike compared to the first half of 2020. It is the first time that over USD 200 billion was raised during the first half of any year, and deal volume also saw a strong 143 per cent increase in H1 2021.  

U.S.-and China-based issuers led the pack in the first half of 2021, with 424 listings and 211 listings respectively, followed by Canada (63), Australia (60), and Japan (53).
Cross-border activity also grew globally, with deal volume increasing by 91 per cent year-over-year and value increasing by 232 per cent during the same time.

However, the continued global demand for Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC) IPOs reached African shores in the first half of 2021, with a cross-border listing from a South African SPAC issuer – African Gold Acquisition Corporation – into the New York Stock Exchange.

Globally, however, Baker McKenzie’s analysis shows that the continued global demand for SPAC deals, as well as current high liquidity and investor enthusiasm, caused capital raising to surge to new highs in the first half of 2021, with the bulk of companies preferring to list their IPOs locally.

Globally, a total of 1,263 deals valued at USD 294 billion are expected to be completed by June 30, 2021, with domestic IPOs accounting for 77 per cent of all listings during this time.

Commenting on the lack of cross-border IPOs as a form of capital raising in Africa, Wildu du Plessis, Head of Africa at Baker McKenzie, explained: “Issuers and investors in Africa are waiting for economic and legal certainty and effective regulation to be implemented, combined with the need for deeper liquidity before they go ahead with capital raising in the continent.

“It is also worth noting that the region tends to lag the global pattern by a few cycles, so we could see a similar rising demand for African IPOs in future years, possibly boosted by the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area at the beginning of this year.”

Regarding the SPAC listing by African Gold Acquisition Corporation, Du Plessis explained that SPACs are formed to raise capital through IPOs, with the capital raised then used to acquire existing companies (or invest in existing businesses) the identities of which are not disclosed or even known at the time of the IPO. Even though some indication is given at the time of the IPO as to which industries will be targeted, investors in these SPACs are essentially asked to invest in a somewhat uncertain future.

Du Plessis explained that while cross-border IPOs are currently not used as a way to raise capital on the continent, the next few years could possibly see increased capital raising activity for companies in industries particularly hard hit during COVID-19, including hospitality and transportation. The technology sector is also expected to dovetail into life sciences, and this could result in a move towards capital raising via IPOs for technology companies with operations in Africa.

New and innovative technologies (particularly among biotech, fintech, edtech, software AI and health tech) continue to emerge at an unprecedented pace, expedited by COVID-19 and the need to digitally innovate business operations to survive in a virtual environment could boost regional capital raising transactions.