Robinhood will give retail investors access to IPO shares, a longstanding Wall Street realm

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The Robinhood application on a smartphone.

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Robinhood is giving amateur investors access to initial public offering shares in its latest move to democratize retail investing.

IPO shares have historically been set aside for Wall Street’s institutional investors or high-net worth individuals. Retail traders typically don’t have a vehicle to buy into newly listed companies until those shares begin trading on an exchange, which is often after the share price has surged.

“We’re starting to roll out IPO Access, a new product that will give you the opportunity to buy shares of companies at their IPO price, before trading on public exchanges. With IPO Access, you can now participate in upcoming IPOs with no account minimums,” Robinhood said in a blog post Thursday.

Robinhood will not be an underwriter for companies hitting the public markets but the stock trading company will get an allocation of shares by partnering with investment banks.

This move is Robinhood’s latest to antagonize Wall Street. IPO stock pops on the first day averaged 36% in 2020, according to Dealogic, demonstrating individual investor thirst for some of these popular names that is not priced into IPO pricing. Also, these are gains the little guy is missing out on.

The traditional IPO process has been criticized in recent years as being broken, with investment banks allotting the shares to big clients who reap the instant first-day gains. Going public by way of direct listing has combatted some of these criticisms.

Figs IPO to be the first

Using IPO Access, Robinhood clients will be able to request to buy shares at their initial listing price range. When the final price is set, clients will be able to go through with the purchase, change or cancel.

Medical scrubs company Figs — which filed its paperwork to go public to the SEC on Thursday — will be the first company to offer its share on the Robinhood app.

“We currently anticipate that up to 1.0% of the shares of Class A common stock offered hereby will, at our request, be offered to retail investors through Robinhood Financial, LLC, as a selling group member, via its online brokerage platform,” Figs said in its S1.

“This is the first initial public offering to be included on the Robinhood platform and there may be risks associated with the use of the Robinhood platform that we cannot foresee, including risks related to the technology and operation of the platform, and the publicity and the use of social media by users of the platform that we cannot control,” the company added.

It is unclear if Robinhood clients will be able to invest in Robinhood’s pending IPO. The stock trading app is expected to go public in the first half of 2021 but has not yet filed its S1 with the SEC.

IPO Access will be rolled out to all clients over the next few weeks.

Robinhood’s IPO product comes on the heels of record levels of new, younger traders entering the stock market during the pandemic. That surge has continued into 2021, marked by frenzied trading around so-called meme stocks like GameStop.

Online finance start-up SoFi made a move similar to Robinhood’s in March; however, Sofi will be an underwriter for its offered IPOs.

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— with reporting from CNBC’s Kate Rooney.



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