In the calendar year 2021 the ASX IPO market saw listings more than doubling from the sixty-seven in FY 2020 to 163.
As newcomers to share market investing quickly learn, all prospective listees on the ASX must publish a prospectus to accompany their submission for listing. No matter the business model, every IPO Prospectus released to the market has one objective – to “sell” the potential of the listing company. Similarly, regardless of pronouncements of the benefits accruing to humankind from the use of whatever the listing company produces, the purpose for listing has one objective as well – to raise money.
Some observers are of the opinion a robust IPO market is often a general indicator of the health of both the domestic and the global economy, since potential listees are reluctant to go through the IPO process in down market conditions.
Obviously, there is nothing wrong with wanting to make money, either as an individual investor or a soon-to-be publicly traded company. However, who gets the money raised in an IPO and how it will be spent ranks at or near the top of most lists experts put out for prospective retail investors.
Ideally, investors should favor IPOs led by founding members, at least some of whom will remain with company post listing. IPOs submitted by Hedge Funds or Private Equity firms run the risk the prior owners will take the money and run as soon as they can.
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Every IPO Prospectus details how the money will be spent, one of the many reasons market experts tell retail investors studying a prospectus is, or should be, required with no exceptions. Ideally, most of the proceeds should go towards growing the company, with some reserved for reducing debt.
Debt should be of great concern to potential investors since no matter how strong the sector in which the company operates, many IPOs are at risk of running out of money. Companies not yet producing revenue are in effect in a race against the clock ticking down while available cash burns away. High cash burn rates are close to a guarantee the company will at some point have to resort to taking on more debt, or issuing new shares, diluting the value of the holdings of existing investors.
The current global macro-economic environment is uncertain at best, with no one able to predict when the war in Ukraine will end, nor what the eventual impact of the massive sanctions taken against Russia will be.
ASX IPO listings to date reflect some of that uncertainty. At the half-year point of 2021, eighty-five companies had listed on the ASX. With a week to go in Q1 of 2022, 28 companies are seeking a listing on the ASX with twenty four scheduled and four “to be announced” (TBA).
The types of companies listing can also reflect the current hot sectors in an economy. Nineteen of the twenty-eight are miners, some listing as general “mining and exploration” companies and others working towards specific metals/minerals, from silica to graphite to cobalt to lithium to gold and helium.
There are two listings ideally suited for consideration by retail investors with investing history who believe in the principal “buy what you know.” Both operate businesses with products that facilitate the investing process. The prospective companies and their proposed trading codes and issue prices are:
- Halo Technologies Holdings Limited (HAL) $1.20
- Equity Story Group Limited (EQS) $0.20
Halo Technologies has developed a multi-faceted technology platform for equity research and trading execution. The core platform has two elements that work together – HALO Global and HALO Trading.
The platform is available for both individual retail investors and professional brokerage agencies and other investment firms. Unlike many IPOs that are available only to institutional and high net worth investors, retail investors can apply for shares in this IPO.
HALO has been in business for four years and stands far above the majority of IPOs as a company generating both revenue and profit.
The base HALO Trading platform offers retail investors the ability to buy and sell stocks globally and domestically without a subscription fee, offering simplified information. The revenue generating arms of the company are the subscription based HALO Global, operating B2B (business to business) and B2C ( business to consumer).
Both consumers and subscribing professional businesses have access to feature-rich research and analysis tools on the HALO Global platform, along with portfolio management features.
The research and analysis tools include ETF(exchange traded funds) and stock screeners and charting tools, including data from around sixty thousand equity listings in fifty different countries. HALO stock screeners include forward looking data with up to three year forecasts from major global financial institutions. Consumer finance information website moneycrashers.com labelled the HALO “unlike any screener available today,” Charting tools are fully customisable, allowing inclusion of price, profitability, market expectations, events, and signals, with an alert feature for interested investors.
The company sees its customer base broken down into four categories:
- Self-managed super funds
- Self-directed investors
- Value-based investors
- Financial advisory firms and institutions
Not all potential investors in share markets have the experience or the temperament to act as “self-directed,” researching and building their own portfolios.
For “value-based” investors, the HALO platform features twenty three pre-defined investment portfolios based on investment themes. Similar to a traditional ETF, the portfolios – called Vues – allow investors to access a slate of companies in line with their own interests. The HALO website includes descriptions of all Vues by theme, with immediate access to one year stock price appreciation on the introductory page followed by more detailed information about the composition, investment strategy, and time horizon of the selected Vue.
Proceeds from the IPO will fund global growth initiatives, including acquisitions, marketing initiatives, and technology enhancements and development. In its IPO prospectus, HALO management claims to have already selected a pool of possible acquisition opportunities for expanded review and analysis after the IPO is completed.
The company is expanding into the US market and the global B2B and B2C markets following the IPO.
Privately held companies looking to go public report historical financials “pro forma,” which in essence means the reported results may not follow GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles). Nevertheless, they do allow prospective investors an opportunity to track the company’s progress, or lack of it.
For FY 2019 HALO reported pro forma revenues of $1.2 million, more that quadrupling to $5.2 million in FY 2020 and then doubling to $10.5 million in FY 2021.
For FY 2019 the company reported a loss of $1.2 million dollars, reducing the loss to $255 thousand in FY 2020 before posting its first profit of $1 million dollars in FY 2021.
Equity Story Group offers investor education, research, trading advice, and fund management through two subscription services – Trader Pro for ASX investors, and Trader X which adds US markets.
This is a business where newcomers to share market investing can go to learn what they need to know to make full use of the kinds of sophisticated analysis and charting features offered by trading platform operators like HALO.
Equity Story is listing following strongly benefiting from the tailwinds provided by the flood of new investors to stock market spurred on by the COVD 19 Pandemic.
The company benefited from a capital raise, enabling expansion in the Australian market and now has it’s sites set on expanding into the US market. Equity Story Group is actively pursuing US SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) licensing and registration as a US investment advisory firm.
The company began as a trading platform in 2007 and gravitated towards adding investing advice and education when realising many of its customers needed more help than a traditional trading platform could provide.
Today the Trader Pro platform offers a full day ZOOM investment education class covering the essentials of both fundamental analysis and technical analysis, among other topics.
With a better investment foundation with which to interpret specific investment ideas, Equity Story Group offers short (fifteen to twenty minutes) PODCASTs of the day called MarketWatch — daily trading ideas and specific investment recommendations for both technical analysis and fundamental analysis– and twice weekly PODCASTS with a panel of investment experts, along with a Sunday preview of the week to come in the ASX along with a hot stock pick.
Trader X offers the same lineup to US customers using stock listed on the major US exchanges and includes all features of Trader Pro for Australian investors.
Operational control of the company will remain in the hands of its founders — one an expert in technical analysis and the other an expert in fundamental analysis — with IPO proceeds going towards enhanced marketing efforts and M&A (merger and acquisition) activity.
Acquisitions of companies offering complementary investing services are key to Equity Story’s growth efforts. The current subscriber base of twelve hundred Australian users may seem small, but the company also claims a mailing data base of more than forty thousand Aussie investors who have expressed interest in the Equity Story Group education and investment advice platform.
Finally, the company has plans to expand its funds management business, launched in September of 2020. The fund – the Equity Story Growth Fund – currently has $5 million dollars in funds under management.
In FY 2021 the company generated $1.2 million dollars in revenue and posted a loss of $420,000.
Equity Story Group is in a highly competitive space but could emerge from marketing and advertising efforts to tap into their 40k strong mailing list data base with a competitive advantage.
The frequent PODCASTS featuring specific advice and recommendations from experts in both fundamental and technical analysis may prove highly attractive to impatient younger investors. In addition, the daily and weekly outreach to its investor base offer something relatively unique in the space – combining technical charting with fundamental analysis.