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Article | 18 November 2019 | Investments
A listing on the stock market is the dream of many a wannabe unicorn start-up. But sky-high valuations can sometimes be built on fantasy rather than sound expectations. And these young, fast-growing companies can burn through their cash at an alarming rate. We look at the downs and ups of this year’s initial public offering (IPO) market and a possible high flyer.
WeWork, a shared office space company, has grabbed headlines for all the wrong reasons. Its eye-watering IPO valuation was exposed as baseless and the deal collapsed. The company was once sprinkled with the stardust of the start-ups who rented the office space. Now it has come down to earth with a bump. It was rescued by Softbank Vision Fund at a fraction of the proposed IPO price.
Both Uber and Lyft, the ride-hailing apps which listed earlier in the year, touched all-time lows last month. They are both struggling to make their business models not only convincing, but also profitable. Elsewhere, former favourite sectors such as bitcoin, marijuana and vaping have taken a hit.
Even the more healthy alternatives have struggled. Peloton, best known for its internet-connected indoor bikes, opened more than 10% lower on its first day of trading. Beyond Meat, maker of the vegan burger, was quite the market darling when it first listed in the summer. But rising competition from rivals could mean lower profit margins and the share price has tumbled.
Meanwhile, Virgin Galactic became the first space travel company to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Despite stratospheric plans, the company is not altogether reaching for the stars. Unlike Elon Musk’s aim to colonise Mars, Virgin Galactic will instead set its sights on luxury space hotels on the Moon. In the meantime, would-be travellers can buy tickets for a 90 minute space flight for a mere $250,000. The shares rocketed higher in the first hours of trading, before fizzling out later in the day.