Canada’s Public Equity Markets Hit Rock Bottom

The staggering sum of $550,000 was raised by Stone Ridge Exploration Corp. (CNSX:SO) in April, the only IPO on any Canadian stock exchange in the second quarter. Things are so bad for IPOs that in the first half of 2016, Canada’s public equity markets raised just slightly more than $1 million in capital. In comparison, the Toronto Stock Exchange, TSX Venture, and Canadian Securities Exchange managed to raise $1.4 billion in the same six months in 2015.

Dean Braunsteiner, PwC’s IPO leader, believes it’s simply economic skittishness that has private companies thinking twice about taking the plunge into public waters. Between the Brexit, our own housing market, an ailing energy sector, and generally weak economic conditions, he believes companies are right to question going public at the moment.

So, once conditions improve in the second half of 2016 or sometime in 2017, investors can expect IPO markets to return to their usual levels. After all, things always return to normal—until they don’t.

Think about what’s happening in Canada when it comes to financing business growth. The TSX—along with debt—used to be the best way for an up-and-coming business to finance its expansion.

Now, there is crowdfunding, the exempt markets, peer lending, and many other non-traditional methods of raising capital. This combined with the costs of going public both in terms of listing requirements and the time that management must spend getting the business ready for market has many firms questioning the sanity of such a move.

For this reason, I believe Canada’s public equity markets are on a road to obsolescence.

Although these new forms of financing have provided competition for Canada’s stock exchanges, the real demise of Canada’s public equity markets began in June 2013 when Lululemon Athletica Inc. (NASDAQ:LULU) delisted from the TSX.

Labeled a cost-savings move at the time, in reality, Lululemon had outgrown its need for a Canadian listing. It had become a global company competing against the likes of Nike Inc. and Under Armour Inc.; despite being based in Vancouver, its growth was south of the border and overseas—Canada had become an afterthought.

LULU went public in 2007. FinTech wasn’t even a word nine years ago, let alone a major disruptor of the global financial services industry. A dual listing made a lot of sense. Last year when Davids Tea Inc. (NASDAQ:DTEA) went public, it didn’t even bother with a Canadian listing. Expect more of this to happen as Canadian success stories follow David’s Tea and bypass the TSX.

The TSX might not disappear completely, but soon it might have to be renamed the Toronto Commodities Exchange as only resource companies seek listings on the senior board. Then Canada’s public equity markets will have truly hit rock bottom.

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Fool contributor Will Ashworth has no position in any stocks mentioned. David Gardner owns shares of Under Armour (A Shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of Lululemon Athletica, Nike, and Under Armour (A Shares).

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