The typical price behavior of an initial public offering (IPO), consisting of a price upsurge on the first trading day followed by subpar performance in the (longer-run) after-market, is one of the most intriguing puzzles in corporate finance. This study focuses on high-tech IPOs in Europe and the U.S. over the period 1998–2001, both to compare the European and U.S. IPO markets and to determine how the price behavior of high-tech IPOs compares to that of IPOs in general. Average initial-day returns were 39% and 64% for the European and U.S. samples, respectively. The median returns were significantly lower, however, indicating that the sample averages are affected by a small group of exceptionally strong performers. But, for the first full year of trading, the median market-adjusted returns were negative for both samples. Not surprisingly, this substandard aftermarket performance was most apparent in companies that failed to generate operating profits.

As with IPOs in general, high-tech IPOs showed higher initial-day returns in “hot” markets than in “cold.” Strong first-day performance was a good predictor of IPO volume in the high-tech market, with strong first-day returns triggering a flood of IPOs in subsequent months. Overall, then, the authors' study concludes that the price behavior of high-tech IPOs provides an exaggerated version of the general tendency of IPOs to be underpriced initially but underperform over the longer term.