Investors' reduced appetite for risk is sending a chill through the trading floors of Wall Street and the loft spaces of San Francisco.
The large pop in the share price of mobile payments firm Square Inc on its stock market debut on Thursday may not be enough to bring comfort to fellow technology firms such as Dropbox and Cloudera, which are expected to go public in the coming year.
The early-morning 64-percent surge in Square's shares came after the firm priced its initial public offering at a 42 percent discount to its last private valuation. The stock closed up 45 percent.
Square is not the first of the so-called unicorns - private companies valued at $1 billion or more - to go public below its private valuation. But it is the largest in recent years and the boldest sign yet that investors do not want to play at any price.
“Until you have 10 of these deals that trade up 50 percent, they’re not going to buy these valuations,” said Chris Bulger, managing director of Bulger Partners, a tech advisory firm in Boston.
IPO consultants and attorneys said they expect 2016 to be even quieter for tech firms going public, and highly valued companies that do go that route are more likely to sell shares below their private valuation. That could mean more canceled and postponed IPOs.
Banks On The Hook
For investment bankers, investor caution in both the equity and debt markets is proving costly.
Banks, led by Morgan Stanley and Bank of America, are on the hook for $5.6 billion after weak demand from investors forced them to postpone the refinancing of debt backing Carlyle Group's $8 billion acquisition of Symantec Corp's data storage unit, Veritas.
Fashion department store operator Belk Inc had to cut the price of a $1.5 billion loan backing its buyout by Sycamore Partners. On Thursday, Cowlitz Tribal Gaming Authority reduced the size and cut the price of a loan meant to finance a resort and casino.