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The Going-Public Decision and the Product Market

Thomas Chemmanur, Shan He and Debarshi Nandy

Review of Financial Studies, 2010, vol. 23, issue 5, 1855-1908

Abstract: At what point in a firm's life should it go public? How do a firm's ex ante product market characteristics relate to its going-public decision? Further, what are the implications of a firm going public on its post-IPO operating and product market performance? In this article, we answer the above questions by conducting the first large sample study of the going-public decisions of U.S. firms in the literature. We use the Longitudinal Research Database (LRD) of the U.S. Census Bureau, which covers the entire universe of private and public U.S. manufacturing firms. Our findings can be summarized as follows. First, a private firm's product market characteristics (total factor productivity [TFP], size, sales growth, market share, industry competitiveness, capital intensity, and cash flow riskiness) significantly affect its likelihood of going public after controlling for its access to private financing (venture capital or bank loans). Second, private firms facing less information asymmetry and those with projects that are cheaper for outsiders to evaluate are more likely to go public. Third, as more firms in an industry go public, the concentration of that industry increases in subsequent years. The above results are robust to controlling for the interactions between various product market and firm-specific variables. Fourth, IPOs of firms occur at the peak of their productivity cycle: the dynamics of TFP and sales growth exhibit an inverted U-shaped pattern, both in our univariate analysis and in our multivariate analysis using firms that remained private throughout as a benchmark. Finally, sales, capital expenditures, and other performance variables exhibit a consistently increasing pattern over the years before and after the IPO. The last two findings are consistent with the view that the widely documented post-IPO operating underperformance of firms is due to the real investment effects of going public rather than being due to earnings management immediately prior to the IPO. The Author 2009. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Society for Financial Studies. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please e-mail:, Oxford University Press.

Date: 2010
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