After a dismal start to 2008, the market for initial public offerings is reviving. It began in mid-March with Visa's blockbuster $19.1 billion deal. Unlike many...

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After a dismal start to 2008, the market for initial public offerings is reviving.

It began in mid-March with Visa’s blockbuster $19.1 billion deal. Unlike many financial stocks, Visa was unscathed by the mortgage mess.

“The U.S. IPO market made a statement with the Visa IPO that deals could get done,” says Kathy Smith, principal at Greenwich, Conn.-based Renaissance Capital.

Since then, fertilizer producer Intrepid Potash (IPI) has surged 50 percent from its debut, while pump and valve maker Colfax (CFX) has gained more than 25 percent.

In the past three months, the Renaissance IPO index, which includes a rolling two-year population of IPOs, is up 12.4 percent, compared with 3.9 percent for the Standard & Poor’s 500.

“Investors know they are making money in newly public companies, and that will translate into the IPO market,” Smith says.

But the market remains selective. Only high-quality companies have fared well.

This month, three deals are trading below their IPO price: coated-paper company Verso Paper (VRS), real-estate investment trust American Capital Agency (AGNC) and Real Goods Solar (RSOL).

Scott Sweet, managing director of research firm IPO Boutique, says investors are looking for growth. He says Verso Paper’s large debt burden scared them off. “Credit is a major issue right now,” Sweet says.

In its prospectus, Verso warned that debt exposure may increase its risk.

Analysts are positive about several IPOs in the pipeline, such as Greek dry-bulk shipper Safe Bulkers, which prices next week. Sweet also likes portfolio management-software company Open Link Financial and online-education provider Grand Canyon Education.

“There are solid companies that are in the pipeline lining up to go,” Smith says.

Three Washington companies are lined up for IPOs, though none is expected anytime soon: Varolii, a Seattle-based software developer; Seattle biopharmaceutical company Omeros; and Bellevue-based Intelius, which provides online background checks and other information services.

Harry & David, the Medford, Ore.-based retailer that filed to go public in 2005, formally withdrew that filing this month.

Information from Seattle Times business reporter Drew DeSilver is included in this report.