Initial public offering (IPO)

Selling shares on the public markets to attract investors, without giving up a controlling stake in your business.

What is an IPO? +

An IPO (initial public offering) is the first time a business raises finance publicly. Before that, it can only use private investment.

Going public allows your business to raise large sums of money from new investors. Because there are lots of investors with a small percentage of ownership, but no majority stakeholders, you can retain control of the business.

An IPO is sometimes referred to as either ‘listing’ or ‘floating’ on the public market. In the UK, public markets (see below) sit within the London Stock Exchange.

This method is often called ‘long-term capital’ or ‘patient capital’, as businesses can use it to raise money time and time again, over years and even decades.

Once your business is a public company, you have to regularly disclose financial information. You must update shareholders and the market with half-yearly and annual results.

What are the different IPO markets?

  • Main Market – for larger businesses; home of FTSE 100 and 250
  • High Growth Segment – for tech-specific businesses not quite ready for the Main Market
  • AIM – for smaller, growing businesses looking to scale

The AIM market is the world’s most successful growth marketLink opens in a new window, so it’s suited to smaller businesses that are looking to grow. AIM has less prescriptive rules than the Main Markets to make sure that businesses can go public and raise finance as easily as possible.

Who's involved? +

Nominated adviser or sponsor

Your nominated adviser (often called a ‘Nomad’) on AIM, or your sponsor on the Main Market, helps prepare and admit your company to the public markets.

Broker

Manages your fundraising activity on the market.

Accountant

Responsible for detailed financial reporting.

Law firm

Performs due diligence and oversees the listing from a legal perspective.

Registrar

Manages the register of your shareholders.

Financial PR firm

Helps craft your story and maintains media interest in your company.

What are the benefits? +

Long-term finance

It’s easy to raise more money once you’ve listed your business, without having to go through the process again.

Retain control

On AIM, there’s no minimum ‘free float’ criteria (the percentage of the business put on the market). You’ll be notified if one investor tries to buy beyond your pre-set threshold.

Increases brand profile and awareness

This can help boost sales.

Gives staff an incentive

With employee share options.

Secondary market for shares

This allows existing investors to exit.

What are the risks? +

No guaranteed return

You may not achieve the valuation you had hoped for.

Costs

There are charges involved in retaining your appointed advisers, including your broker, law firm and PR agency.

Is it right for me? +

About your business

  • Business stage:  Established and growing
  • Annual turnover: Over £5m (does not apply to healthcare businesses)
  • Sectors:  All (healthcare and tech may be able to list earlier in their lifecycle than other sectors)
  • Regions:  All

 

About the finance

  • Purpose of finance: Acquisition, product development, new markets
  • Amount available:  Up to £200m on AIM, over £1bn on the Main Market
  • Duration of finance:  10 years or more
  • Cost of finance:  You'll need to appoint your advisers, build your board and spending time making the business ready for public life. An IPO can cost approximately 8% of the amount you hope to raise.
  • Time it can take to get finance:  IPO processes take 10–12 weeks, but planning and negotiations can take 12–18 months

How do I choose the right deal? +

Ask an expert: Geoff Nash, Nomad and corporate finance director at finnCap

What do you look for in a business?

Management and track record

Have you:

  • done this before?
  • had success in public or private markets?
  • grown a business?
  • done it well?
Financial profile

Is your product commercially viable? Can you prove it? Are you profitable? How much profit?

Scalability and opportunity

Does your product or service have national and global appeal? Will it translate into other markets?

What do I need to consider? +

Time

An IPO can take months and sometimes years, so take your time when choosing business advisers. They’ll be with you for the duration of your life as a public company.

People

The IPO process will absorb your CEO and finance director for at least six months. The director team will need to keep the business running in the meantime.

Life as a public company

Once you’ve successfully listed, you’ll need to comply with transparency and disclosure rules. This means you must disclose business information like company wages, finances and tax.

Ongoing costs

You’ll need to retain your Nomad, broker, law firm and PR agency for as long as your business is on the market. As a result, you should factor in these fees when determining your outgoings.

How do I get it? +

lPOs are often years in the making — and there’s lots of planning to do upfront. Once everything is in place, the process takes between 10–12 weeks.

This infographic outlines what it takes to complete an IPO.

To learn more about how to list on the public markets, read the London Stock Exchange guide for entrepreneursLink opens in a new window

“IPOs give companies credibility, visibility and profile. They’re a stamp of quality, a chance to get your brand out there and an opportunity to make sure everyone knows who you are and what you do.”

Quote logo Geoff Nash Corporate finance director, finnCap

Other finance options

Venture Capital
Equity
Venture Capital invests in businesses with high growth potential, often after Angel investors have got the business started.
{"mTitle1":"VENTURE CAPITAL","mTitle2":"Investors like","mPara2":"Early stage businesses, regardless of whether they have made a profit or revenue, with an annual turnover of less than £3m.","mTitle3":"You're looking for","mPara3":"Significant growth and £1m+ of finance within six to 12 months with the option for multiple funding rounds.","mCTATxt":"FIND OUT MORE","mCTAUrl":"https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/finance-hub/venture-capital"}
{"section1Name":"ABOUT VENTURE CAPITAL","section1CTA":"LEARN MORE","section1URL":"/venture-capital","section1LearnTitle":"Discover more about ","section1LearnAria":"Discover more about Export Finance","section1Rows":{"row1":{"Title":"Purpose of finance","Content":"Acquisition; research and development"},"row2":{"Title":"Amount of finance","Content":"£1m+, depending on funding round"},"row3":{"Title":"Duration of finance","Content":"5-10 years"},"row4":{"Title":"Cost of finance","Content":"None"},"row5":{"Title":"Time to finance","Content":"6-12 months"}},"section2Name":"ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS","section2CTA":"LEARN MORE","section2URL":"/venture-capital","section2Rows":{"row1":{"Title":"Business stage","Content":"Early stage; no revenue or profit needed"},"row2":{"Title":"Annual turnover","Content":"Depends on the business, but is often below £3m"},"row3":{"Title":"Sectors","Content":"All"},"row4":{"Title":"Regions","Content":"All"}},"applyItems":{"item1":{"txt":"view the journey to finance","url":""},"item2":{"txt":"view the application checklist","url":"https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/finance-hub/venture-capital-checklist"}}}
Start Up Loan
Debt
A government-backed loan that helps people who are starting their own business.
{"mTitle1":"START UP LOAN","mTitle2":"Providers like","mPara2":"Businesses within the first two years of trading or that have yet to start.","mTitle3":"You're looking for","mPara3":"Up to £25,000 unsecured loans to help start or grow your business.","mCTATxt":"FIND OUT MORE","mCTAUrl":"https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/finance-hub/start-up-loan"}
{"section1Name":"ABOUT START UP LOAN","section1CTA":"LEARN MORE","section1URL":"/start-up-loan","section1LearnTitle":"Discover more about ","section1LearnAria":"Discover more about Export Finance","section1Rows":{"row1":{"Title":"Purpose of finance","Content":""},"row2":{"Title":"Amount of finance","Content":""},"row3":{"Title":"Duration of finance","Content":""},"row4":{"Title":"Cost of finance","Content":""},"row5":{"Title":"Time to finance","Content":""}},"section2Name":"ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS","section2CTA":"LEARN MORE","section2URL":"/start-up-loan","section2Rows":{"row1":{"Title":"Business stage","Content":"Yet to start or trading for less than two years"},"row2":{"Title":"Annual turnover","Content":"Any"},"row3":{"Title":"Sectors","Content":"Some exclusions apply (see <a href='https://www.startuploans.co.uk/am-i-eligible/' target='_blank'>here</a>)"},"row4":{"Title":"Regions","Content":"Any"}},"applyItems":{"item1":{"txt":"view the journey to finance","url":""},"item2":{"txt":"view the application checklist","url":""}}}
Direct Lending Fund
Debt
A business borrows money from a fund and repays it with interest. A fund may be able to provide loans where a bank will not.
{"mTitle1":"DIRECT LENDING FUND","mTitle2":"Lenders like","mPara2":"Businesses with assets to use as security against lending.","mTitle3":"You're looking to","mPara3":"Flexible and tailored loans and to maintain full control of your business.","mCTATxt":"FIND OUT MORE","mCTAUrl":"https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/finance-hub/direct-lending-funds"}
{"section1Name":"ABOUT DIRECT LENDING FUND","section1CTA":"LEARN MORE","section1URL":"/direct-lending-funds","section1LearnTitle":"Discover more about ","section1LearnAria":"Discover more about Export Finance","section1Rows":{"row1":{"Title":"Purpose of finance","Content":""},"row2":{"Title":"Amount of finance","Content":""},"row3":{"Title":"Duration of finance","Content":""},"row4":{"Title":"Cost of finance","Content":""},"row5":{"Title":"Time to finance","Content":""}},"section2Name":"ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS","section2CTA":"LEARN MORE","section2URL":"/direct-lending-funds","section2Rows":{"row1":{"Title":"Business stage","Content":"Established with assets and a trading history"},"row2":{"Title":"Annual turnover","Content":"Any"},"row3":{"Title":"Sectors","Content":"Any"},"row4":{"Title":"Regions","Content":"Any"}},"applyItems":{"item1":{"txt":"view the journey to finance","url":""},"item2":{"txt":"view the application checklist","url":""}}}

Regional support

Enter your postcode to find business support and case studies from businesses within your region. You'll be taken to our interactive map.