Investing

5 of the biggest IPOs of the past decade

Twenty/20

It's been a busy year for initial public offerings (IPOs), with companies like Uber, Lyft, and Pinterest among those that debuted their stocks to investors in 2019.

This year caps off a decade that's seen more than 1,800 companies make the transition from private to public — a nearly 11% increase compared with activity in the U.S. stock market during the prior decade. Even though there have been more IPOs, the amount of money those offerings generated hasn't changed much in the past two decades as a result of inflation, according to Kathleen Smith, principal at Renaissance Capital, a provider of institutional research.

But the types of companies coming to market has changed, Smith adds. Back in the 2000s, the five biggest IPOs of the decade were Visa, AT&T Wireless, Kraft Foods, Infineon, and China Unicom.

"The build-out of mobile networks were important in the last decade, and in the current decade, e-commerce and mobile apps were key themes," Smith says.

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Here are the five largest IPOs of the 2010s — based on proceeds raised during these offerings, according to figures from Renaissance Capital — and how those stocks have fared in the time since their debuts.

5. HCA Healthcare

Coming in at No. 5 is HCA Healthcare, which owns and operates more than 180 hospitals and about 2,000 other health-care sites like urgent care centers and physicians clinics in 21 states. It's based in Nashville, Tennessee.

The company went public back in March 2011 and began trading at $31.20 a share. HCA Healthcare lived up to the riskiness that many experts warn about with IPOs: Stock performance can be very turbulent, especially when starting out. About four months after it arrived on Wall Street, HCA Healthcare's stock fell below its debut level and remained below that for more than a year. It has since bounced back in a big way.

Return since IPO: Up 350%

4. Uber Technologies

The fourth-largest IPO of the past decade arrived on the stock market this past May with Uber's debut. The ride-hailing company is also among the notable apps that have changed the way we spend money.

Uber was founded in 2009, and the San Francisco, California-based company has had to navigate numerous controversies since then. Its reception on Wall Street has also been mixed. It opened for trading at $42 a share and has been below that level for much of its journey as a public company.

Return since IPO: Down 30%

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3. General Motors

A lot has happened in the past decade, especially for General Motors. The company was previously publicly traded until it filed for bankruptcy protection and received a government bailout in the wake of the Great Recession. This industry continues to face challenges as global car sales are expected to fall the most this year since that economic downturn.

The vehicle maker, based in Detroit, Michigan, reorganized, emerged from bankruptcy, and returned to the stock market in November 2010. But General Motors has had a bumpy ride since it began trading at $35 a share. At its best, the stock was up 33%; at its worst, it was down 46%. Today it's taken a U-turn back and ended up pretty close to where it started.

Return since IPO: Up 5%

2. Facebook

The social media giant has had a huge decade, including its IPO and several major acquisitions along the way like Instagram and WhatsApp. Facebook, based in Menlo Park, California, has become synonymous with the growth style of investing in recent years because it has been among the fastest growing stocks. It's a member of the FAANG group, which stands for Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google parent Alphabet. These tech stocks have been so popular with investors (in part because they've been among the best performers) that they were given their own nickname back in 2013.

Facebook arrived on Wall Street in May 2012 and opened for trading at $42.05 a share. Its stock price subsequently fell below its IPO level for more than a year. After recovering, however, the price has more than quadrupled.

Return since IPO: Up 420%

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1. Alibaba

The biggest IPO of the past decade and, in fact, of all time, is the Chinese tech giant Alibaba. It may not hold this distinction for long, however. Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia's state oil giant, is preparing to go public and could surpass it.

Alibaba decided to debut on the U.S. stock market back in September 2014 and opened for trading at $92.70 a share. Keeping with the theme of the other big IPOs on this list, Alibaba's stock also went through a bumpy period and was trading below that level for much of 2015 and 2016 before rebounding.

Return since IPO: Up 108%

What to know about investments and IPOs

The performance of newly public companies can be turbulent, especially in those first few years of trading. A recent UBS analysis based on data from a University of Florida professor found that most investments in newly public companies lose investors money after five years.

And among the top five largest IPOs this decade, you would've been better off investing in an index fund that tracks the S&P 500 in lieu of buying either Uber or General Motors.

That's why experts recommend you focus on the long term when investing, a diversified mix that tracks the market is generally a much safer bet. Even with rough periods, over the past 90 years the average annual gain for stocks is 11.4%.

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