Trader Talk

The big Alibaba chill? Giant's effect on IPOs may get its first test

A man plays snooker in a hall inside Alibaba's headquarters in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, April 23, 2014.
Chance Chan | Reuters

We will get a modest test of whether there is an "Alibaba effect" on initial public offerings (IPO) late Thursday when ReWalk Robotics prices its IPO. I say "modest" because it is a small offering: 3.4 million shares at $14$16. ReWalk develops exoskeletons for wheelchair-bound individuals that allow them to stand and walk again.

The theory, still much debated, is whether Alibaba is such a gigantic offering that it is reducing interest in other IPOs anywhere on or near the horizon.

Now that Alibaba has a firm date, we are finally starting to see a few other flotations test the market waters. Last night, an Israeli tech company, Cyber-Ark Software (CYBR), said it would go public September 24. They are in a hot space: protection from cyber attacks. They are seeking to raise 5.4 million shares at $13$15.

Still, there's been radio silence from a crop of high-profile U.S. tech names: Box and GoDaddy are two names that immediately spring to mind. Traders are also waiting for Line, a messaging system that is billed as the WhatsApp of Japan.

There are other IPOs out there. Also on September 24th, the largest bank in Colombia, Grupo Aval Acciones Y Valores (AVAL), will go public in a very large offering: 73.5 million shares at $14.96. This is a big one, though it already trades in Colombia the listing here will be worth north of $1 billion.

Citizens Financial, a northeast bank, also announced it would go public September 24.

In the larger picture, however, the IPO market is showing signs of improvement. The Renaissance Capital IPO ETF, a basket of some 60 recently-issued IPOs, is sitting at a new high.


The formerly high-flying energy sector is suffering badly as oil prices collapse. In early trading Thursday, oil fell again as West Texas Intermediate (WTI) was down another one percent to $90 and change (16-month low), while also down one percent to under $97 (a 17 month low). In fact, among the 10 major S&P 500 Index's sectors, energy is down the most this month, having dropped nearly 4 percent.

It's been a tough month for mining companies, with Freeport, Southern Copper, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, among others, are all down mid single-digits.

Base metals are also under pressure: copper is lodged at a three-month low. Aluminum down five days in a row to a one-month low, and zinc are also a one-month low.

--By CNBC's Bob Pisani