It will be tough for initial public offerings (IPOs) to top 2014. But while 2015 may not reach last year's record heights, it shouldn't do too badly, either, particularly if rumored deals for such high-profile companies such as Uber and Airbnb come to pass. Handicraft sales site Etsy, which values itself at $1.7 billion, filed its IPO prospectus Thursday with initial plans to raise $100 million, underscoring the healthy demand for IPOs.
According to Renaissance Capital, 275 companies went public last year, the most since the peak of the dot-com bubble in 2000, raising $85.2 billion. This year should come close to last year's activity and rise above the historic annual average of $50 billion, according to Kathleen S. Smith, a partner with Renaissance, a firm that manages IPO exchange-traded funds and also researches the market.
"We think we will be in the ballpark of what we had seen in terms of the numbers of IPOs," said Smith told CBS MoneyWatch. "There is so much potential in the pipeline."
San Francisco-based ride-sharing service Uber recently completed its latest round of funding last year, which valued the company at more than $41 billion. Airbnb, which also is headquarted in San Francisco, is raising funds that value it at $20 billion, according to Bloomberg. The company enables people to rent out space in their homes on a temporary basis.
Data from Renaissance shows that 14 U.S. health care firms, which includes biotechs, have come public so far this year. That's the most of any sector, and it's potentially worrisome because biotech firms often lose money.
"You have to be concerned about the biotech deals," Smith said. "Not all of them are going to cure cancer. ... Some of the cloud (computing) companies have performed poorly as well."
So far this year, 25 IPOs have priced, raising $3.9 billion, according to Renaissance. An additional 32 companies with market capitalizations topping $50 million have filed paperwork with the Securities & Exchange Commission to proceed with stock sales.
Although these figures represent double-digit declines over the past year, Smith isn't concerned because 2014's data includes many energy IPOs, a sector that has gone out of favor since oil prices have collapsed. The numbers were also skewed by the January 2014 IPO of Santander Consumer (SC), a U.S. lending arm of the Spanish bank, which raised $1.8 billion.
"We are just a little off in the timing," she said, adding "the quarter isn't over yet."
So far, the FTSE Renaissance IPO Composite Index, a float-weighted index of IPO performance, has returned 3.9 percent so far this year, beating the 2 percent performance for the S&P 500.
Burger chain Shake Shack (SHAK) is a standout in the current crop of IPOs after more than doubling in its January debut, closing at $45.90. Shares of the New York-based chain have faltered a bit since then, tumbling about 4 percent as Wall Street analysts raised concerned about whether the company's lofty valuation is justified.
GoPro (GPRO) is another high-flying IPO that has managed to stay ahead of the naysayers. The maker of wearable video cameras closed at $31.34 on its first day of trading last year, a gain of 55 percent. The shares closed Thursday at $41.08, down 4.5 percent on the day.
Worries about valuation have also pushed down shares of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba (BABA) by more than 17 percent since the start of the year. The stock closed Thursday at $86.10, compared to its $94 closing price at its September IPO debut (and its high so far of $120). Alibaba raised $21.8 billion in the largest IPO deal in history. But even if 2015 doesn't see any Alibabas, it could see plenty of Etsys.