Timeline of an IPO
Intention to float
A company officially announces its intention to float through an IPO by making a formal announcement to a recognised stock exchange such as the London Stock Exchange (LSE). At this point, investors can register their interest with an investment platform such as Barclays Smart Investor but they can't invest just yet.
The company then officially announces the launch of the IPO or share offer by publishing their approved prospectus, pricing notification and any other supplementary documents. It's essential to read all of this information thoroughly so that you can appreciate the level of risk involved, but the prospectus is the only document on which decisions to invest should be based. It should also list the minimum investment level.
For a limited period only
The IPO or share offer will only be available for a limited period. At the launch, the company confirms the 'offer period' – the amount of time you'll be given to make up your mind and invest at the launch price. This price won’t be known until the offer closes, however an indication of the price range will be detailed within the pricing notification. But be warned, an offer period isn’t set in stone – it's just an indication. If demand is high, it could close early and at short notice.
Confirmation of allocation
After the offer period has closed, the company announces the allocation of shares to all investors and will confirm its launch on the market and the price of the stock. When there's strong demand, investors won't necessarily receive all the shares they've applied for.
Once launched, the company will trade in the same way as any listed firm. Influences affecting prices include supply-and-demand, company performance and general market conditions.
There are some flotations that come to the market in two stages. First, there may be a period of conditionally dealing once the company announces the allocation and price of the stock. This typically lasts for three days and is linked to the IPO deal settling on the stock market. Any trades during this period are still conditional on the company being listed on the exchange. This can place an extra risk on private investors carrying out conditional dealing because, should the company fail to be listed, all transactions made during the conditional dealing period would become void. Because of this, there are some elements of trading in the stock that aren’t available, such as buying within an investment ISA.
‘Unconditional dealing' begins as soon as the stock is fully listed on the exchange and when no further conditions apply to trading. Any conditional deals that have been placed must wait until trading has become unconditional before they can be settled. At this point, investing via an ISA is allowed.