Direct Public offering

There's a somewhat unfamiliar term floating around the financial markets these days -- direct public offering, or DPO for short.


This is very much like the more established initial public offering (IPO), although there are several critical differences and distinctions between the two.


A DPO, simply put, is when a company directly offers its stock to the public by listing it on a stock exchange.


In contrast, an IPO is a new stock issue in which one or (usually) a group of investment banks -- known as underwriter(s) -- attempt to sell the shares to a select group of investors before the stock exchange listing. This is typically done through a "road show" (series of presentations to potentially interested buyers). Following this stage, the new stock lists on the market, and the general public can trade it.


In a DPO, this stage of the process is skipped. There are no underwriters, and thus no road show. 


There are advantages and disadvantages to a DPO. The first advantage, of course, is savings. Since investment banks do basically nothing for free, their IPO underwriting generates fees. That money for the road show has to come from somewhere, and the underwriters need to be sufficiently compensated for their time, effort, and risk.

So by eliminating them from the offering, an issuing company can save tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars. (Fees for a typical IPO tend to approach 7% of the total proceeds raised).


On the flip side, the better IPO underwriters have strong networks of wealthy people and institutions looking for good investments. A quality IPO road show managed by clever underwriters not only drums up awareness among the moneyed elite, it also makes the company more familiar to the general public (and, thus, hopefully more attractive to investors) and creates more buzz for the issuing company. This helps lift its IPO price, resulting in higher proceeds for the issuer. 


Ultimately, there's no "better" method between an IPO and a DPO. The appropriate one depends on the situation of the company going public. Better-capitalized and more familiar businesses with lots of insider stockholders might be better off going the DPO route; companies that lack money or familiarity could be more suitable for the traditional IPO route.

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