How does the market perceive ESG in IPOs : Investigating how ESG factors affect IPO Underpricing in the U.S. market

University essay from Umeå universitet/Företagsekonomi; Umeå universitet/Företagsekonomi

Abstract: Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) integration in financial activities is a crucial topic that is gaining importance in financial markets. During the years, many studies have been conducted about Initial Public Offering (IPO) and underpricing since they are fundamental aspects of firms’ lifecycle. Nevertheless, none of these studies have appropriately related firms’ ESG characteristics to IPO underpricing. In order to fill this knowledge gap, this thesis’s purpose is to investigate whether the ESG factors of a firm have effects on its IPO underpricing in the U.S stock market. The U.S has been chosen as it is the biggest stock market in the world and because of the quality and reliability of the data available for this country.  A quantitative study is applied to investigate the relationship between ESG characteristics of the firms and the level of underpricing. First, to obtain the measurement of the ESG level of the pre-IPO firms, we have conducted two textual analysis of IPO prospectus, namely, term frequency and sentiment analysis. These indicators aim to show the disclosure level of ESG factors and whenever ESG is perceived negatively or positively by the market. Successively, the multiple regression is performed for each ESG indicator to find which measures have the analytical abilities to explain IPO underpricing. Based on the multiple regression results, we can conclude that the frequency of environmental & governance terms occurred in IPO prospectus, the negative tone, and the overall sentiment of the environmental context are significantly explaining IPO underpricing. These results have given meaningful answers for our research. The market does not perceive the social factors of a firm in the IPO context. On the other hand, environmental and governance aspects still attract the market’s attention in different ways. The market is concerned about the disclosure level of the governance activities and whether these activities are sufficiently mentioned in the prospectus. Meanwhile, the market takes into serious consideration the environmental activities of a firm by assessing the qualities of these activities. Moreover, the market is more sensitive to the negative information about environmental content than positive information in the IPO context. The textual analysis methods applied in this thesis have some limitations. However, this study has the reliability to confirm that some companies’ ESG factors affect IPO underpricing. As a consequence, it is possible to state that the market cares about  ESG issues.

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