In the words of Prince: party like it’s 1999.
That’s at least the sentiment on Wall Street when it comes to companies making their debuts this year, capped by the largest initial public offering so far in 2020 with Airbnb (ANBN) shares jumping 112% in the travel giant’s first day of trading Thursday.
After pricing shares at $68 in its IPO, Airbnb saw shares more than double to open for trading at a valuation of more than $100 billion. The giant step up came the same day hydroponics company Hydrofarm Holdings (HYFM) jumped 159% in its debut and a day after software company C3.ai (AI) also saw shares more than double in their debut to spark a number of comparisons to the tech bubble and runaway speculation that eventually went bust.
In fact, historical data compiled by University of Florida Professor Jay Ritter shows Airbnb was the 19th company in 2020 to double in its first day of trading, which marked the most since the bust of 2000 when 77 companies at least doubled in their first day of trading. In 1999, that number was 117.
“Back then, it was mainly very young internet companies that doubled in price, and almost all of them crashed and burned. This year, we are seeing larger and more mature companies, such as Airbnb, double in price” Ritter, a leading IPO expert, said. “Although the stock may drop, the company is unlikely to crash and burn.”
Still, any reading drawing comparison to the tech bubble is sure to cause a bit of nervousness, especially considering 2020’s tally adds up to nearly the 27 IPOs that achieved doubles on day one from 2000 through 2019. That number also doesn’t factor in the record amount of companies that have gone public by way of reverse merger, or special purpose acquisition company (SPAC).
In 2020, 220 companies have gone public by way of a SPAC, more than three times as many as in any one previous year, according to Ritter.
To be fair, however, the IPO market hitting tech bubble levels doesn’t necessarily spell doom. For example, nearly 80% of the companies going public in 2018 lost money in the year leading up to their respective IPOs. That matched the highest percentage Ritter ever recorded — the same proportion of unprofitable companies that went public in 2000 as the dot-com bubble came to an end.
Zack Guzman is the co-host of the 11AM - 1PM hours on Yahoo Finance Live as well as a senior writer and on-air reporter covering entrepreneurship, cannabis, startups, and breaking news at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @zGuz.