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What Is An IPO ?
An initial public offering, or IPO, is the first sale of stock by a company to the public. A company can raise money by issuing either debt or equity. If the company has never issued equity to the public, it's known as an IPO. Companies fall into two broad categories, private and public.

A privately held company has fewer shareholders and its owners don't have to disclose much information about the company. Anybody can go out and incorporate a company, just put in some money, files the right legal documents and follows the reporting rules of your jurisdiction. Most small businesses are privately held. But large companies can be private too. It usually isn't possible to buy shares in a private company. You can approach the owners about investing, but they're not obligated to sell you anything. Public companies, on the other hand, have sold at least a portion of themselves to the public and trade on a stock exchange. This is why doing an IPO is also referred to as "going public."

Public companies have thousands of shareholders and are subject to strict rules and regulations. They must have a board of directors and they must report financial information every quarter. From an investor's standpoint, the most exciting thing about a public company is that the stock is traded in the open market, like any other commodity. If you have the cash, you can invest."

Going public raises cash, and usually a lot of it. Being publicly traded also opens many financial doors:
  • Because of the increased scrutiny, public companies can usually get better rates when they issue debt.
  • As long as there is market demand, a public company can always issue more stock. Thus, mergers and acquisitions are easier to do because stock can be issued as part of the deal.
  • Trading in the open markets means liquidity. This makes it possible to implement things like employee stock ownership plans, which help to attract top talent.
Being on a major stock exchange carries a considerable amount of prestige. In the past, only private companies with strong fundamentals could qualify for an IPO and it wasn't easy to get listed.
Getting In On An IPO
Don't Just Jump In
No History
And what about the underwriters ?
The Lock-Up Period
IPO Basics : Conclusion