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The Underpricing of Initial Public Offerings at the Berlin Stock Exchange, 1870–96


Address for correspondence: Carsten Burhop, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Kurt-Schumacher-Straße 10, 53113 Bonn, Germany. Tel: +49 228 9141641; fax: +49 228 9141662; e-mail:


Abstract. In this article, we evaluate underpricing of initial public offerings at the Berlin Stock Exchange between 1870 and 1896. In contrast to modern data, first-day returns were extraordinary low and averaged less than 5%, even during the speculative period of the early 1870s. Moreover, standard underpricing theories based on asymmetric information, signalling mechanisms or litigation risk cannot explain underpricing. In contrast to modern markets, underpricing was higher during hot issue markets. Finally, we show that cash-flow relevant information contained in the corporate charter was readily factored in the first market price. Thus, the historical capital market differed from today's market, but seems to have been efficient.