Gentlemanly capitalism revisited: a case study of the underpricing of initial public offerings on the London Stock Exchange, 1946–86

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Abstract

Allegations of British capital market failure are numerous, but frequently contentious. This paper revisits the literature by highlighting the post-1945 market for initial public offerings (IPOs) as a clear instance of capital market failure. Despite the tender method delivering substantially lower underpricing than the traditional fixed-price offer method, it was adopted by only one in 10 firms going public. This missed opportunity cost issuing firms between £1.7 billion and £3.5 billion in real proceeds forgone between 1960 and 1986, excluding privatizations, and was symptomatic of a lack of competition in equity underwriting before Big Bang.

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