IPOs Looking Up

When it comes to global IPO activity, 2011 has seen the liveliest start to a year on record.

So far this year, companies have raised $24 billion, up 20% from year-ago levels, according to Thomson Reuters. China leads in volume, accounting for 41% of new issue activity, followed by the United States at 35% and Brazil at 6.6%.

As for biggest deal of the year so far, that title goes to U.S. private equity-backed energy pipeline company Kinder Morgan, which raised $2.9 billion, plus about $400 million over-allotment options, in its Feb. 10 offering.

The big question: Will the momentum hold up?

The past week has been pretty slow for new filings for U.S. exchanges. Still, the domestic pipeline looks promising, particularly on the venture- and private-equity backed front, with offerings on tap from hospital operator HCA Holdings, LinkedIn, The Active Network, which runs a software platform for managing sports groups and other activities, and Freescale Semiconductor.

Another positive indicator, at least for U.S. exchanges, is the paucity of withdrawn deals. In 2011, there have not yet been any withdrawals of planned IPOs by venture-backed companies, based on a reasonably thorough scan of the SEC database. With markets down for the week amid continuing turmoil in the Middle East, there’s a good chance investor skittishness will dampen IPO prospects. But for now, it’s looking like a much-awaited turn to optimism for the U.S. IPO market.