--First offering in more than a month
--Positive reception after Facebook's poor performance
--Three other IPOs expected this week
The chilly atmosphere around the U.S. IPO market finally began to thaw Wednesday, with the first new stock launched in over a month rising 13%.
Energy partnership EQT Midstream Partners LP (EQM) closed at $23.75, up from its initial public offering price of $21. The deal of 12.5 million units priced at the high end of its expected range.
The initial public offering's warm reception was a welcome change after five weeks of deep freeze in the U.S. new-issuance market, following the disappointing debut of Facebook Inc. (FB) May 18. It sets the stage for the launch of three other stocks this week: software firm Exa Corp. and biopharmaceutical firm Tesaro Inc., both Thursday; and cloud-based computer-service provider ServiceNow Inc. Friday. Exa and Tesaro will be the first Nasdaq Stock Market IPOs since Facebook's deal struggled with technical glitches on Nasdaq OMX Group Inc.'s (NDAQ) exchange. ServiceNow is launching on NYSE Euronext's (NYX) New York Stock Exchange.
The 39-day freeze between Facebook's and EQT Midstream's offerings is the longest spell without any U.S.-listed IPOs since a 57-day gap from August to October 2011, when broader market volatility made pricing difficult.
Historically after a freeze in the IPO market, the first IPO--the so-called icebreaker deal--has shown good returns, according to Greenwich, Conn.'s Renaissance Capital. These first deals generated an average first-day return of 20%, compared with the historical norm of 11%. Over the long run, the IPO research firm said, icebreaker deals can be very rewarding: Investors seek to extract stiff discounts after a freeze, so the IPOs have farther to rise when the broader markets turn positive.
The icebreaker deals Renaissance has researched since 2000--IPOs that came to market after dry spells of at least 32 days each--delivered an average three-month return from IPO prices of 64%, compared with a 6% gain on the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index during the same periods.
Though EQT Midstream's first-day gain is a positive sign for the U.S. IPO market, its fist-day performance puts it firmly in the category of "average" rather than a making it a classic icebreaker deal. Its limited-partnership structure typically attracts investors interested in dividends rather than momentum players seeking quick stock pops. At its IPO price, EQT Midstream's expected annual dividend payout yields 6.7%
Headquartered in Pittsburgh, EQT Midstream was formed by natural-gas producer EQT Corp. (EQT) to own, operate and acquire midstream natural-gas assets, such as pipelines. Its initial focus is on assets in southern Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia.
It operates gas pipelines, including a 700-mile interstate system that connects to five other pipelines, and gas-gathering systems that deliver gas from wells to pipelines. Its system focuses on delivery into interstate pipelines that serve customers throughout the mid-Atlantic and Northeastern U.S.
EQT Corp., which still operates midstream assets of its own, will be EQT Midstream's largest customer. It will also own its general partner interest; all incentive distribution rights; and a 63% limited partner interest in the newly public company.
EQT Midstream portrays the relationship as an advantageous one; EQT Corp.'s affiliates include one of the largest natural-gas producers in the Appalachian Basin, which will use its pipelines. In exchange for receiving some of EQT Corp.'s midstream assets, EQT Midstream will turn over most of its IPO proceeds to its parent and give it general partner and limited partnership stakes.
But the flip side of that is EQT Midstream is dependant on one company for a substantial majority of its revenue and future growth, and there are conflicts of interest in having EQT Corp. serve as a customer, management team and majority owner. EQT Midstream's status as a limited partnership means EQT Corp. doesn't owe unit holders the same fiduciary duties as a corporation would its shareholders.
In the three months that ended March 31, EQT Midstream's total operating revenue increased 17% to $31 million, and its net income rose 29% to $11 million, compared with the same period a year earlier. In 2011, revenue rose 20% to $110 million, while net income increased 74% to $33 million, compared with 2010.
-Write to Lynn Cowan at email@example.com