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The government shutdown has frozen the IPO market


The government shutdown is clogging up the initial public offering (IPO) market and it could stay that way once the shutdown is resolved.

“[We] had 22% higher number of IPO applications at the end of [2018] as we had at the end of [2017]. So, there is a lot of demand for companies wanting to tap the public markets," Nasdaq CEO Adena Friedman said during a panel with Yahoo Finance’s editor-in-chief Andy Serwer at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. This part of the conversation can be viewed at around the 44-minute mark of the video above.

The volatility during the fourth quarter created a dampening effect on the IPO pipeline, with some companies opting to delay their public debut to the first or second quarter.

But because of the government shutdown, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) hasn’t been able to approve IPOs.

"When you can't actually bring any IPOs to market in the month of January then you're starting to squeeze essentially the pipeline into a shorter time horizon,” Friedman said. “What we'd like to provide for a nice spread out environment for companies to be able to tap the public markets, have their own day in the sun.”

Adena Friedman, President and CEO of Nasdaq, attends a panel about Global Markets in a Fractured World during the World Economic Forum, WEF, in Davos, Switzerland, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Adena Friedman, President and CEO of Nasdaq (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Fewer months for IPOs makes the environment “more challenged,” especially with the financials of some of the companies going stale in mid-February — pushing their debut back even further.

Later on, Nasdaq president Nelson Griggs told Yahoo Finance's Julie Hyman that there are a few companies that are far along enough in the SEC process to go public.

The Wall Street Journal reported that some companies are attempting to go public via a workaround that wouldn't require the final SEC sign-off.

"Those are companies that fall in that latter category of going very very far in the SEC process. We are in active discussion with a number of companies, I wouldn't talk about any names in particular. But, if they reach that point, we are really talking about really, 'how do we cover the risk factors?' We are in unchartered territory. This has never happened before."

Griggs added that the exchange is in discussions with those companies, their lawyers, the parts of the SEC that are open, and underwriters.

"We'd like to do it, but we also have to think about investor protection," he said.

Just a week ago, JPMorgan Chase (JPM) touched upon how the shutdown could slow down activity in the capital markets.

“For IPOs, in particular, for sure if we don’t see the ability to get approval from the SEC on IPOs, and to a lesser extent, some of the M&A deals that need approvals from government agencies, it will be problematic in the ability to see those activity levels play out and fees be realized,” CFO Marianne Lake said on a call with analysts.

The federal government shutdown, now in its 32nd day, is the longest on record.

Friedman pointed out that once the SEC reopens it’s “going to have a huge backlog.”

Julia La Roche is a finance reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.