In June 2017, the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance (“Corp Fin”) announced a new policy effective July 2017 that essentially extends the confidential submission process to all issuers while keeping the EGC process unchanged. The new policy also permits an issuer to submit for confidential review a registration statement filed to register a class of securities under the Exchange Act, such as a registration statement on Form 10 for a U.S. issuer or a Form 20-F for an FPI. An issuer must publicly file an Exchange Act registration statement at least 15 days prior to seeking its effectiveness. For certain large, privately held companies that have undertaken various rounds of private financings and may not have an immediate need to raise additional capital, a “direct listing” may be an attractive alternative to a traditional IPO.
Historically, there have not been many issuers that have undertaken a “Form 10 IPO” or “backdoor IPO,” but market dynamics have changed. However, for a unicorn, which has been able to raise capital in the private markets at attractive valuations, a direct listing may be a good alternative. A listing on a national securities exchange will provide much-needed liquidity for employees, early investors, and even venture capital and private equity sponsors. A unicorn, advised by financial intermediaries acting as financial advisers (not underwriters), likely will be able to attract the attention of additional or new institutional investors that might purchase its securities in the secondary market. These same financial intermediaries, or others familiar with the company, might provide research coverage following the listing of its stock on a securities exchange.
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