‘Upcoming IPOS in the UK 2023’: Where are they now?
Lily Ruaah, 25 January 2024
‘Going public’ can mean a few different things. In the modern dating world, you might hear it when your friend is soft-launching their new partner, or when a celeb announces a new relationship. But in the world of business, it means offering shares of your company out to the public.
This move is a major milestone for any company, signifying a transition from a private entity, where shares are owned by a limited group of investors, to a public one, where the general public can buy and sell shares on the stock exchange.
At the beginning of last year, we profiled 12 companies we thought might IPO in 2023—and now we’re revisiting them to see if our predictions played out.
What is an IPO?
In case you haven’t read our original article, an IPO stands for Initial Public Offering. It refers to when a private company goes public in order to generate capital—to further growth, reduce debt, or fund other business ventures.
How does it work? A private company will offer the public to buy shares of the company. This process involves several steps:
Advantages of an IPO
A company might choose to go public because, in its most distilled form, it needs to raise capital. Capital is used for a number of things: funding research and development, paying off debt, expanding the business, and more.
On top of that, an IPO generates brand awareness. Alibaba can lay claim as ‘the most hyped IPO of all time’. According to Deal Room, an underwriter during the time said he’d never seen anything like it—the stock finished 38% above the initial listing price, at the end of its first day. It caused a big stir, and threw Alibaba into the spotlight.
Similarly, offering the company out to the public will automatically put you on the radar, and get you in front of new audiences—leading to a raise in value of the market share.
It can also be used as an exit strategy. An IPO exit strategy is the game plan used by early backers like venture capitalists or private equity firms to cash in on their investments. It’s a key move for these investors to sell off their shares and turn their investments into actual money once the company’s shares start trading on the stock market. An IPO exit strategy is mainly designed with the early investors’ goals and needs in mind.
Disadvantages of an IPO
Of course, there are also disadvantages to an IPO. One of the main reasons is that as a founder you’d need to give up total control, and answer to the shareholders. This can be a hard pill to swallow when you have a clear end goal with your brand.
In addition to this, preparing for an IPO is expensive. Costs include underwriting fees, legal fees, accounting costs, and other expenses. The process also demands considerable time and attention from the company’s senior management and staff, which can divert resources away from day-to-day business operations.
Upcoming IPOs in the UK | 2023
Low6 has developed a sports betting app allowing users to bet against each other rather than against the bookmaker.
In 2022, rumours circulated that Low6 might exit in an IPO—FINSMES called a funding round for £3.72m, a ‘pre-IPO funding round’. Despite the hearsay, Low6 has not exited, and in May 2023 won the Acquisition & Retention Partner award at the 2023 SBC North America awards.
As the economic situation has not improved, it’s not surprising that Low6 hasn’t taken any ‘exit action’ yet. But the company could still be one to watch for 2024.
Blockchain.com is a UK crypto-currency company. The company was valued at $14b in 2022, after five fundraising rounds, the first in 2014. In 2023, the company closed an £88m investment round which halved its valuation, down to £5.5b.
Despite a decrease in valuation, the substantial investment into Blockchain.com indicates that investors still have faith in the cryptocurrency industry, even after it has endured several challenging years.
In the last two years, the cryptocurrency sector has experienced a significant drop in its value and has been hit by a series of notable scandals, including the major collapses of FTX and Terraform Labs, as well as a marked rise in fraud associated with cryptocurrencies.
In response to these challenges, Blockchain.com implemented two rounds of job cuts, eliminating approximately 250 positions in January 2023 and July 2022.
Happy Drinks Co
Happy Drinks Co, now better known as the Happy Drinks Group, makes a range of low-calorie soft drinks—namely tonic waters.
In March 2022, the company confirmed it was hoping to float in the next 18 months. Steve Wilkson, the founder, said: ‘We’re not looking for an exit route. An IPO would enable us to pursue a game-changing revolution in the soft drinks market.’ But we haven’t seen any sign of an IPO yet. What we have seen is a rebrand with the company repositioning itself as HDG with a new ‘Coming Soon’ website.
Its valuation has also increased in 2023, going from just under £45m to just over £55m in September. This is due to secured fundraising of £3.48m from Seedrs and other undisclosed investors.
WeShop is a web application that lets users set up their own online stores—where they can sell to friends or connections via social media. It boasts itself as the first-ever community-owned social ecommerce platform. It offers shoppers shares in the group every time they make a purchase.
In April 2023, WeShop announced the delay of its IPO, but also introduced its first share buybacks. In the same interview, the CEO stated that they were still aiming for the end of 2023, but would need to be fluid because of market conditions—we haven’t heard anything for 2024.
Cornish Lithium is a lithium mining company based in Cornwall. Lithium is quickly becoming a secondary choice to gasoline, hailed as better for the environment. The demand for lithium has only continued to grow as companies strive towards the government’s demand for a NetZero 2050.
Cornish Lithium aimed to IPO in 2022, but ultimately delayed. Then in 2023, the company had one month to raise £10m or risk going bust. Cornish Lithium bounced back, securing two rounds of back-to-back funding: £4.95m from Crowdcube in September 2023, and £53.6m from multiple investors. It also received a grant in October 2023 from the Advanced Propulsion Centre as part of a low-carbon vehicle funding project.
The company hasn’t released any more news of an IPO in the future.
4most is a financial consultancy service, specialising in credit risk analytics.
In December 2022, 4most’s CEO Robert McDowell announced the company’s plans to go public in the spring. This IPO would mark the first instance of a predominantly employee-owned business launching on the London Stock Exchange (LSE).
However, in April 2023, Phoenix Equity Partners bought the majority share of 4most, after advice from Osbourne Clarke. 4most stated that selling the majority stake ensures a ‘bright future’ for the company, enabling it to achieve its upcoming growth objectives.
Xmos specialises in the design and sale of fabless semiconductors, catering to various industry sectors. It’s a University of Bristol spinout, which has seen tremendous growth, hitting both our 10% and 20% scaleup growth signals, as well as being featured on two high-growth lists.
Despite IPO rumours for a number of years, nothing has yet to come of it, and 2023 was another null year. In fact, we’ve heard very little about the company since 2020—but we’ll keep following along for some 2024 news.
Brewdog is a craft beer company that stands as a celebrated success story among UK startups and is the only unicorn company actively operating in Scotland. Its expansion has been remarkable, with the company securing £320m through 15 funding rounds. This financial backing has facilitated opening a series of craft beer bars and supported its growth overseas.
In 2022, the company was actively planning an IPO, with help from Freshfields. However, there’s been no news of an IPO since then. The company ended 2022 on a sour note, closing down six bars due to the skyrocketing energy prices. It’s since bounced back and opened its first franchise pub in the US, partnered with Budweiser in Hong Kong, and planned new locations for London and Edinburgh.
Omnio develops software for banks and businesses that provide financial and payment services.
The company has successfully secured £46.5m through three funding rounds. In 2021, they raised £25.9m from the Spanish investment entity, GrayBella Capital. This injection of funds supported the company’s expansion efforts in the UK and Europe, and the round was specifically designated as a ‘Pre-IPO Convertible Bond’ round. Despite this, Omnio did not IPO in 2023.
Omnio introduced a new chairman in 2023, Razvan Munteanu, who could lead the company in a new direction.
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Onfido specialises in creating software that confirms a customer’s identity by evaluating the authenticity of their government-issued ID and utilising facial recognition technology.
The company has secured a massive 13 rounds of fundraising, totalling £176m. It has maintained high periods of growth, hitting both our 10% and 20% scaleup signals. It features on an impressive 17 high-growth lists.
However, they’ve been making the news in 2023—they partnered with the Co-operative bank to help with customer onboarding, acquired Airside, and received the Company of the Year by Frost & Sullivan. So, we’ll be keeping a close eye on Onfido in 2024 to see what else they get up to.
Lyst runs a social shopping platform and mobile app designed to assist users to discover fashion products from a wide range of brands. It has raised £122m in eight fundraisings since its launch in 2010, and features on eight high-growth lists.
In its second-to-last funding round in May 2021, the company secured £60.2m, describing it as a pre-IPO round. Techcrunch indicated that the specifics regarding the time and place of the IPO were undecided, but as of January 2024, there’s been no IPO announced.
Zopa is an online bank which offers services such as personal loans, credit cards, and car financing. It has raised a significant £657m in 14 fundraisings since its inception in 2004. As well as featuring on nine high-growth lists, and attending the Future Fifty accelerator programme.
At the beginning of 2023, Zopa secured a £75m investment but was still waiting for the right market to IPO. A spokesperson for Zopa told UKTN: ‘We still plan to IPO. As we have said before, Zopa could have been ready for an IPO as early as Q4 2022 by which time we would have shown a consistent track record of profitability.’ They went on to say they wouldn’t be rushed to make a hasty decision and would carefully evaluate the investment climate when markets reopen. So, a 2024 IPO could be on the cards.
What companies are likely to IPO in 2024?
Looking at our 2023 list, it’s evident that it’s not easy to predict who might IPO in the future, but we investigated the 2024 landscape.
According to Forbes, the number one pick for companies likely to IPO in 2024 is Kim Kardashian’s Skims. Skims is a B2C shapewear brand that’s seen global acclaim. Since its launch, it’s had two fundraisings, totalling £291m.
The brand has shown strong financial growth and has benefited from effective celebrity endorsements and social media marketing. The shift towards inclusive fashion and Skims’ solid ecommerce presence suggest a high potential for ongoing growth. These elements are driving investor excitement about its anticipated 2024 IPO, positioning Skims as a potential leader in the fashion industry.
Shein also made a number of IPO prediction lists—not only as one of the biggest IPOs of 2024, but as one of the biggest American IPOs in history. In 2023, the Chinese fast-fashion company was valued at $66b, but aims for a valuation of up to $90b for its IPO, as reported by Bloomberg. Achieving the upper end of this valuation would rank the company’s debut as the second largest in history, after Alibaba.
Closer to home, Klarna—the ‘buy now, pay later’ scaleup— has been rumoured to be preparing for an IPO. Klarna has received two fundraisings, totalling £884m, and has acquired Hero and Nuji. The Financial Times reported the company is looking at an eventual IPO after turning its first profit in four years.
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