It’s not an IPO window at the moment, it’s an IPO door!

This week has seen another flurry of well-known companies publicly disclosing their intentions to IPO, resulting in the first quarter of 2014 being the most active three months in relation to prospective and finalised IPO’s since…Q4 2013. Those in the know talk about “IPO windows” but there never appears to be any reference as to how long the “IPO window” will remain open for and the fear that it could shut at any point in time.

As I type I am sure that there are private equity firms licking their lips at the prospect of the spoils that might be waiting for them if they can get their portfolio companies to market whilst the current window is well and truly open. If you look at the companies that have announced or completed an IPO since the beginning of Q3 last year, 147 of those have provided or will provide either a full or partial exit for their private equity shareholders.

The current “IPO window” is not limited to a particular sector, with a broad range of industries represented and ranging from tech companies, see this week’s announcement by Alibaba, to retailers, for example Pets at Home, through to theme park operators ( Merlin Entertainment). The New York Stock Exchange and the London Stock Exchange still seem to be the exchanges of choice, closely followed by the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. That said, Alibaba appears to have finally lost patience and has indicated that it is choosing the NYSE over and above the HKSE because the NYSE offers more flexibility in structuring the company’s shareholding.

One particular IPO, the listing of the UK’s former nationalised postal service, Royal Mail, appears to have been one of the most contentious listing in the last six months. The UK’s Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government has been roundly accused of allowing Royal Mail to be under-priced, especially given the huge demand for shares and the movement in the share price in the opening days.

Only time will tell as to how long the current window will remain open and how much of an appetite still remains for public equity.