Some Things to Consider Before Buying
Here are a few things to consider before buying an IPO:
It's hard enough to analyze the stock of an established company. An IPO company is even trickier to analyze since there isn't a lot of historical information. Your main source of data is the red herring, so make sure you examine this document carefully. Look for the usual information, but also pay special attention to the management team and how they plan to use the funds generated from the IPO.
A Word About Underwriters
Successful IPOs are typically supported by bigger brokerages that have the ability to promote a new issue well. (Be more wary of smaller investment banks because they may be willing to underwrite any company.)
The Lockup Period
If you look at the charts following many IPOs, you'll notice that after a few months the stock takes a steep downturn. This is often because of the lockup period.
When a company goes public, the underwriters make company officials and employees sign a lockup agreement. Lockup agreements are legally binding contracts between the underwriters and insiders of the company, prohibiting them from selling any shares of stock for a specified period of time. The period can be anything from 3 to 24 months. The problem is, when lockups expire all the insiders are permitted to sell their stock. The result is a rush of people trying to sell their stock to realize their profit. This excess supply can put severe downward pressure on the stock price.
Flipping is reselling a hot IPO stock in the first few days to earn a quick profit. This isn't easy to do, and traditional (full-cost) brokers strongly discourage this. Despite this, many IPOs that have big gains on the first day will come back to earth as the investors and institutions take their profits.
Avoid the Hype
It's important to understand that underwriters are salesmen. The whole underwriting process is intentionally hyped up to get as much attention as possible. Since IPOs only happen once for each company, they are often presented as "once in a lifetime" opportunities. Of course, some IPOs soar high and keep soaring. But many end up selling below their offering prices within the year. Don't buy a stock only because it's an IPO - do it because it's a good investment.