“Companies tend to stay private for longer before they decide to launch an IPO. The median age of a company that went public used to be 8 years, but now it’s closer to 13”, says Natalia Matanova, who recently joined us from Pennsylvania State University as professor of Corporate Finance. She comments on her areas of expertise, her attraction to the School and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the IPO market.
Natalia’s expertise and research focuses on areas related to corporate and entrepreneurial finance, such as private equity and venture capital investors. “In addition to providing funding, private equity and VCs typically complete intensive restructuring of the company in question, they also enhance corporate governance, align interest of management and shareholders, improve performance and so on”, she explains. “One of the ways in which these investors can realise their return is by floating the company on the public market. But, after the IPO, they do not necessarily exit. Some retain a stake post-flotation and then they can have a big impact on corporate policy. One of my papers analyses to what extent private equity and venture capital investors remain involved after the IPO and whether this is a good or a bad thing, i.e. how does it impact a company’s performance?”
A closely related area of research is IPOs. “I study virtually all aspects of initial public offerings, for example, does the information published in the prospectus actually help to value the company?”
An IPO used to be by far the quickest way to raise large amounts of capital, but companies no longer seem to rush to the public market. As a result, the profile of companies being floated has changed in recent years. And those that prepared an IPO, have since the outbreak of the pandemic put their plans on hold, i.e. COVID-19 has affected this year’s number of IPOs.
“2020 started off well”, Natalia says. “But as the economy went into lockdown in March and April, the IPO market just froze. A lot of private companies have decided to wait. There is still this ongoing concern about whether there will be a second wave and what its impact will be. Investor confidence is not as high as it used to be. Before the pandemic private companies would hire investment banks and together, they would go on a roadshow, traveling around the world to meet with potential investors face to face. But that has changed. Today all meetings are online, which does have a negative impact on the due diligence process and the resulting valuation of the company, for example. All in all, COVID-19 causes a lot of concern, with private companies not being keen to enter a turbulent market and investors cautious to invest.”
However, she is optimistic: “All companies need capital. And the IPO market does have a tendency to recover.” Natalia refers to the well-known phenomenon of IPO waves, whereby a period of high activity, known as a hot market, is typically followed by a period with fewer IPOs, i.e. a cold market. “Remember the dot.com bubble, when the number of IPOs reached a peak, followed by a crash. What we may see is that, for some time, private companies change their preferences. Instead of opting for equity they may look into debt funding, issuing bonds or contracting bank loans, or private capital. After all, VCs have lots of dry powder, i.e. available cash, that they need to spend. So, private companies may want to try and access this private source of capital first. Or they may engage in mergers and acquisitions.”
“It will be interesting to see what kind of changes the IPO market will go through as a result of the pandemic, and what the new normal will look like”, she says, thoughtfully. “I expect companies will have to go public in a shorter time frame, i.e. they will have to spot their window of opportunity and seize it quickly.”
How long is it going to take before the market bounces back? Natalia shrugs: “I don’t have a crystal ball. We’ll have to wait and see.”
Natalia was attracted to the School’s dynamic nature and international reputation. “Vlerick is arguably one of the best ranked business schools in Europe, always on top of the latest trends”, she says, “but it’s also a very dynamic school, offering a learning environment adapted to students’ needs, using innovative teaching methods to equip its students and participants with all the knowledge, expertise and skills required to succeed.”
“The School also has a strong tradition in research in my areas of expertise”, she continues, “and it gives its faculty the opportunity to balance teaching and research, which I find particularly motivating. I hope to be able to contribute to the School’s courses, programmes and research publications, and extend my research to closely related areas. And last but not least, its mission statement really grabbed me. Live your dream, learn continuously, leap with confidence. During the campus visit, I experienced it truly captures the essence of what the School stands for.”
It therefore comes as no surprise that she is a firm believer in the importance of continuous learning: “As a teacher it’s crucial to keep up to date with the latest developments. You need to remain curious and open-minded, be willing to rethink and question your views, and to challenge yourself. In order to inspire our students and participants, you have to be dynamic. If COVID-19 has shown us anything, it’s that nothing is static or fixed.”
Natalia is also a big fan of teamwork: “It’s impossible to overemphasize its importance. Working in teams you can achieve so much more because team members from different cultures, backgrounds and educations can learn from each other while benefiting from the power of diversity.”
Asked what makes her tick, she answers without hesitation: “Personally, I like to travel. Having studied, worked and lived abroad, I’ve come to realise that travel is a real-life education, which offers you the opportunity to meet new people, explore new cultures and discover new things. It broadens your horizon, enriches your life and teaches you about the world. It’s a great way to create new experiences and memories.”
And in conclusion, she adds: “The School’s student and participant population is extremely diverse. I believe my experience in different countries has made me aware of the needs and interests of such an international audience, and I hope to be able to contribute to its success.”