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Coronavirus: IPOs lose the human touch

Asia’s first virtual roadshows have paved the way for a new digital approach to IPO executions; they are a necessity at the moment, but they could become the new normal.

By Jonathan Breen

While the coronavirus pandemic has hurt equity markets, it has also sparked innovation among dealmakers. Restricted travel and forced quarantines have encouraged bankers to experiment with entirely virtual roadshows.

Chinese biotechnology company InnoCare Pharma was the first to bring international attention to the virtual roadshow in March.

The firm floated for HK$2.24 billion ($289 million) after conducting its deal roadshow – when the order-book is built and final pricing determined – without a single face-to-face meeting.

Bankers who were not involved in the transaction were quick to point out that InnoCare had spent months beforehand nurturing relationships with some investors, which had included physical meetings. But they also conceded that executing the deal virtually was impressive and a novel approach.

Permanent savings

The roadshow is a key moment for IPOs; for investors, it’s an opportunity to ask difficult questions, while for the listing-hopeful, it’s a last chance to sell its story.

But the idea of doing things virtually will not be just a temporary solution to the problems caused by Covid-19.

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