By John McCrank
(Reuters) - Nasdaq Inc <NDAQ.O> is hopeful initial public offerings will pick up in the second half of 2020, but much depends on how well companies and investors emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, the head of the exchange operator said on Wednesday.
Nasdaq had a strong pipeline of companies wanting to go public this year, but most IPO activity dried up after the first six weeks as markets were up-ended by the coronavirus crisis, Nasdaq Chief Executive Officer Adena Friedman told the Economic Club of Washington, DC.
"Most companies are either just waiting for a better moment, when investors are more ready to put some risk capital to work, or they are being disrupted in their business models and they're going to have to be able to demonstrate how they can bounce back or how resilient they are through that before investors are going to take that risk with them," she said.
Nasdaq has had 30 U.S. market debuts so far this year, but just two in the past several weeks, including Keros Therapeutics, which held its IPO on Wednesday, popping more than 40% intraday on its first day of trading. There currently no other IPOs on the calendar.
The benchmark S&P 500 is down nearly 20% from its record high in mid-February, despite big gains early this week, as measures to contain the virus brought the U.S. economy to a virtual halt.
No matter the direction of the market or the size of the moves, keeping the markets open is of paramount importance as it has a direct affect on investor confidence, said Friedman, who is also a board member of the New York Federal Reserve.
"Investors have put hard-earned savings into the market," she said. "Now at a time when they are facing a lot of disruption themselves, if you close the market and choke off access to their savings, at a moment when they might need it the most, that is obviously a big break in trust and so when you reopen the market, you can imagine that they would race to the door."
The spike in trading volumes during the crisis has benefited Nasdaq, which makes around 25% of its revenues from exchange transactions, and the company is not planning any layoffs for its around 4,000 employees, across 30 countries, most of whom are working from home, Friedman said.
(Reporting by John McCrank in New York)