6 minute read 20 Jan 2021
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What IPO candidates and investors can expect in 2021

By Paul Go

EY Global IPO Leader; Asia-Pacific EY Private Assurance Leader

Leads Chinese and multinational companies in client servicing domain. Heads Hong Kong real estate, hospitality and construction sector audit group.

6 minute read 20 Jan 2021

Expectations of businesses in 2021 are high, but will the new year be the cure organizations and IPO candidates are looking for?

In brief
  • The IPO market proved to be more resilient than expected in 2020,  when the world was hit by the pandemic. This momentum should continue well into 2021, with cautious optimism.
  • Most organizations have changed how they operate because of the pandemic, and some changes will last longer than others.
  • 2021 is an opportunity to build on the “great reset” that occurred in 2020, and put in place new ways for society and economies to thrive.

In early 2021, after months of volatility, the promised distribution of COVID-19 vaccines has offered hope to the global economy, with business sentiment slowly recovering. This positive sentiment might be fragile, depending on whether the new vaccines can successfully control the pandemic.

The economic impact of COVID-19 will continue in 2021, prompting more stimulus-relief measures from governments to protect economies that are reeling from restrictions and mounting job losses. There is also a significant opportunity to address other major issues such as climate change and inequality. 

The strong finish of 2020 provides good momentum for the IPO market going into 2021. Global IPO markets have benefited from the abundance of liquidity that was injected into the system by governments in the wake of the pandemic. This resulted in record levels of IPO activity in some major markets, more than in the past 20 years. IPO models have also evolved to adapt to the new ways of doing business — virtual roadshows, direct listings, special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC) mergers, to name a few.

Download our latest quarterly IPO report

Our Q4 2020 IPO report provides deeper analysis and insights, including regional and country data.

Explore the data (pdf)

Man preparing a hot air balloon for take off
(Chapter breaker)

Chapter 1

2021: a year of hope and possibility

The future of the global economy is looking brighter, but challenges lie ahead.

With today’s low-interest-rate environment, plus increased first-day returns from IPOs, more retail investors are investing in the stock market to look for better returns. The share price of many new economy and technology companies have made significant advances in 2020. However, investors should beware of potential volatility ahead. We could see investors selling shares as soon as they see signs of market uneasiness, in the hope of locking in their gains from 2020. This would add to any market correction.

Will this change last?

Most organizations have changed how they operate because of the pandemic, but some of these changes will likely last longer than others. In 2021, organizations will continue to review their costs — from staff structures to outsourcing — to reduce inefficiencies, preserve to survive and to free up capital to invest in future opportunities. 

Even with a vaccine, the widespread practice of remote working will not vanish overnight. Like online shopping and video calls with family and friends, people have become used to working from home. This will pose a challenge for both employers, conscious of their spend on office space, and those banking on a revival of commercial property prices. 

At present, almost 14% of the office space in Midtown Manhattan is empty, the highest rate since 2008. Although many yearn for the social atmosphere of the office, it is increasingly unlikely that most employees will return to their desks full time. A hybrid model is likely to emerge, but it will be difficult for employers to achieve a perfect balance for all employees.

IPO candidates should beware of any potential market correction, especially for those companies that have seen their share prices making substantial gains from the market rally in 2020.

With the benefits of remote working technology made clear, organizations have also learned to rely less on business travel for decision-making purposes and instead saved money (and reduced carbon emissions) through virtual interactions. In the IPO sector alone, virtual roadshows have given companies access to a wider pool of investors, and have reduced the time and money involved in doing a conventional campaign. 

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the biggest challenges most organizations have had to face, it has also highlighted what is possible. The speed with which the more successful and adaptive companies reacted to the needs of customers, and the capabilities they deployed, clearly demonstrate their capacity to think innovatively, quickly.

What to expect from those who lead? 

Businesses around the world are gearing up for a new US administration under President Joe Biden. Biden’s administration faces a number of challenges, not least a raging pandemic and entrenched partisanship, but also the renewal of relationships with foreign governments and public organizations such as the World Health Organization. The relationship between the two largest economies in the US and China will have a significant bearing on world trade and global capital markets.

In the case of the EU, its leaders are keen to rekindle their ties with the US on major issues such as climate change. Under the EU’s new budget and recovery package of €1.8t (US$2.2t), carbon cuts of at least 55% over the next decade were targeted. This ambition reflects that of organizations across the world to cut emissions and to tackle climate change. 

Overall, 2021 is an opportunity to build on the “great reset” of 2020, and to put in place new ways for society and economies to thrive.

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(Chapter breaker)

Chapter 2

Key highlights from global IPO trends

Strong Q4 2020 IPO activity demonstrates resilience and defies expectations

Results show a prosperous end to a challenging year.

  • 2020 markets recovered to pre-pandemic levels, reaching new heights.
  • 2020 deal numbers rose 19% and proceeds rose 29% year-on-year.
  • October 2020 was the most active October for the last 20 years by deal numbers.

Speaking on Bloomberg Daybreak: Asia on 20 January 2021, Paul Go, EY Global IPO leader, discusses the company’s latest IPO report and his outlook for the market in 2021.

To get more insight into the steps companies need to take to maximize their chances of IPO success, download our Guide to Going Public (pdf).

  • Data definitions for all charts

    The data presented on this webpage and in the Global IPO trends: Q4 2020 report is from Dealogic and EY. 2020 (i.e., 1 January–31 December) is based on completed IPOs as of 31 December 2020. Data is up to the close of business, 3 January 2021.

    • In compiling the IPO statistics included in these reports and press releases, we focus only on IPOs of operating companies and define an IPO as a ‘company's offering of equity to the public on a new stock exchange’. 
    • This report includes only those IPOs for which Dealogic and EY teams offer data regarding the first trade date (the first day on which the security start trading on a stock exchange), and proceeds (funds raised, including any over-allotment sold). 
    • The first trade date determines which quarter a deal is attributed to. Postponed IPOs, or those that have not yet been priced, are therefore excluded. Over-the-counter (OTC) listings are also excluded.
    • In an attempt to exclude non-operating company IPOs such as trusts, funds and special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs), companies with the following Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes are excluded:
      • 6091: Financial companies that conduct trust, fiduciary and custody activities.
      • 6371: Asset management companies such as health and welfare funds, pension funds and their third-party administration as well as other financial vehicles.
      • 6722: Companies that are open-end investment funds.
      • 6726: Companies that are other financial vehicles.
      • 6732: Companies that are grant-making foundations.
      • 6733: Asset management companies that deal with trusts, estates and agency accounts.
      • 6799: Special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs).
  • Definitions for IPO performance by geography

    • Americas
      includes the United States, Canada, Argentina, Bermuda, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Jamaica, Mexico and Peru.
    • Asia-Pacific
      includes Australia, Bangladesh, Greater China, Fiji, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.
    • EMEIA
      includes Armenia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Isle of Man, Italy, Kazakhstan, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Russian Federation, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and United Kingdom, plus the Middle East and Africa countries listed below.
    • Africa
      includes Algeria, Botswana, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Morocco, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
    • Middle East
      includes Bahrain, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
  • Definitions for IPO deals — top stock exchanges

    We have used data from the main market and the junior market if applicable. The labels on the horizontal axis are the stock exchange tickers (see below for their full names):


    • ASX: Australian Securities Exchange
    • HKEx: Hong Kong Stock Exchange Main Board and its junior market, Growth Enterprise Markets (GEM)
    • IDX: Indonesia Stock Exchange
    • SET: Stock Exchange of Thailand and junior market, Market for Alternative Investments (MAI)
    • SSE: Shanghai Stock Exchange and Science and Technology Innovation Board (STAR)
    • SZSE: Shenzhen Stock Exchange and junior market ChiNext
    • TSE: Tokyo Stock Exchange Main Market and junior markets, MOTHERS and JASDAQ

    Europe, Middle East, India and Africa

    • Indian: India’s National Stock Exchange and junior market, Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) board and Bombay Stock Exchange and junior market SME board 
    • LSE: London Main Market and junior market, Alternative Investment Market (AIM)
    • NASDAQ Nordics: NASDAQ OMX Nordics Main Market and junior market, First North, based in Copenhagen, Helsinki, Stockholm and Riga


    • NASDAQ: US’s National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations exchange
    • NYSE: US’s New York Stock Exchange
    • B3: Sao Paulo Stock Exchange
  • Definitions for IPO deals by sector and IPO proceeds by sector

    Sectors are classified according to Thomson general industries using a company’s Sector Industry Classification (SIC) code. There are 11 sectors, which are defined below with their specific industries. The 11 sectors are shown on the horizontal axis.

    • Consumer:
      the combination of “Consumer staples” and “Consumer products and services” sectors. Its specific industries include: agriculture and livestock, food and beverage, household and personal products, textiles and apparel, tobacco, educational services, employment services, home furnishings, legal services, other consumer products, professional services, as well as travel services. 
    • Energy:
      includes the following specific industries: alternative energy sources, oil and gas, other energy and power, petrochemicals, pipelines, power, as well as water and waste management.
    • Financials:
      includes the following specific industries: asset management, banks, brokerage, credit institutions, diversified financials, government sponsored enterprises, insurance, as well as other financials.
    • Health care:
      includes the following specific industries: biotechnology, health care equipment and supplies, health care providers and services (HMOs), hospitals, as well as pharmaceuticals.
    • Industrials:
      includes the following specific industries: aerospace and defense, automobiles and components, building/construction and engineering, machinery, other industrials, transportation, as well as infrastructure.
    • Materials:
      includes the following specific industries: chemicals, construction materials, containers and packaging, metals and mining, other materials, as well as paper and forest products.
    • Media and Entertainment:
      includes the following specific industries: advertising and marketing, broadcasting, cable, casino and gaming, hotels and lodging, motion pictures or audio visual, other media and entertainment, publishing, as well as recreation and leisure.
    • Real estate:
      includes the following specific industries: non-residential, other real estate, real estate management and development, as well as residential.
    • Retail:
      includes the following specific industries: apparel retailing, automotive retailing, computers and electronics retailing, discount and department store retailing, food and beverage retailing, home improvement retailing, internet and catalog retailing, as well as other retailing.
    • Technology:
      includes the following specific industries: computers and peripherals, electronics, internet software and services, IT consulting and services, other high technology, semiconductors, as well as software.
    • Telecommunications:
      includes the following specific industries: other telecom, space and satellites, telecommunications equipment, telecommunications services, as well as wireless.

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The results of the latest EY Global IPO trends report find that IPO markets were more resilient than expected over the last year. The strong finish of 2020 provides good momentum for the IPO market going into 2021. 

About this article

By Paul Go

EY Global IPO Leader; Asia-Pacific EY Private Assurance Leader

Leads Chinese and multinational companies in client servicing domain. Heads Hong Kong real estate, hospitality and construction sector audit group.