经济学人翻译|Capital idea——为何疫情下,融资反而又来了一波高潮?

Why raising equity is back in fashion.


For over a decade many people in finance have worried about the decline of the public company. Big firms were shrinking their capital bases by buying back shares. And fast-growing firms, including several hundred tech “unicorns”—startups worth over $1bn—chose to remain in private hands rather than bother with an initial public offering (ipo). The result was riskier corporate balance-sheets and the exclusion of ordinary investors from the ownership of the economy’s most exciting firms.


This year has seen a reversal of this trend with an equity-raising bonanza (see Business section). In the past few days Tesla has said it will sell $5bn of new shares, while DoorDash, a food-delivery company, raised $3.4bn in an ipo. In Hong Kong shares of jd Health, a digital-medicine star, rose by over 50% on their first day of trading after its $3.5bn ipo. As we went to press Airbnb, one of the largest unicorns, was listing at a valuation of over $40bn. Worldwide, some $800bn of equity has been raised in 2020 by non-financial firms, the highest sum on record. In America in the last quarter the proceeds should roughly match the amount of shares that companies have bought back.

今年,这一趋势出现了反转,股票融资出现了滚滚财源。在过去的几天里,特斯拉表示将发售50亿美元的新股,食品配送公司 DoorDash 在IPO中也筹得 34亿美元。在香港股市,数字医疗明星——京东健康以 35亿美元上市,首日便上涨了超过50%。正在我们写到全球最大的独角兽之一 Airbnb 时,其估值已经超过400亿美元。2020年,全球反围内,非金融企业共筹集了约8000亿美元股本,这是有史以来的最高纪录。在美国,上个季度的收益应当大致和公司回购股票的数量相同。

Equity is more expensive than borrowing, but has attractions. It is permanent capital that does not need to be repaid. And because it does not come with interest payments it is flexible, making firms more resilient. It is back in fashion for several reasons. Some firms need to repair the damage from the pandemic, for example Rolls-Royce, an aircraft-engine maker, and Carnival Cruises. The tech boom means unicorns can go public at skyhigh valuations. Frothy share prices allow the founders of firms that are already listed to raise capital without diluting their own stake by as much—something Tesla’s Elon Musk has spotted.

股权比借款更昂贵,但更有吸引力。它是不需要偿还的永久性资本。并且由于它不需要支付利息,更加灵活,这也使得公司更具有弹性。它的重新流行有许多原因。一些公司需要修复疫情造成破坏,比如 飞机引擎制造商 劳斯莱斯 和 Carnival Cruises。科技热意味着独角兽公司可以以极高的估值上市。虚高的股价可以使得那些已经上市公司的创始人能够在不过多稀释自身股价的前提下筹集资金——特斯拉的老板 Elon Musk 已经发现了这一点。

There are other factors, too. More Chinese firms are coming of age. This year Nongfu Spring, China’s answer to Evian, floated, making its founder the country’s richest man. Investors are experimenting with legal structures that they think are more efficient than ipos, including spacs (special purpose acquisition companies). Finally, because covid-19 has led many firms to cut their buybacks there is less equity being retired than normal.

还有其它一些因素。越来越多的中国公司成长起来。比如中国的 Evian —— 农夫山泉上市,使其创始人成为中国首富。投资者们正在法律框架内实验他们觉得比IPO 更高效的方式,包括spacs 。最终,因为疫情,很多公司减少了回购,因此股票的回撤比正常时期要少。

Investors are euphoric but they face several risks. One is that prices are too high. Another is that it is not yet clear whether overall corporate indebtedness will fall, partly because the damage from lockdowns is still mounting. For non-financial companies in America’s s&p 500 index, net debt (debt less cash), dropped only slightly in the third quarter of this year, and remains above its level in 2019. Some firms are still burning cash and perhaps a fifth of s&p 500 firms are overborrowed. As the pandemic abates, firms may reinstate buybacks and dividends.


The last danger stems from a cohort of firms having too much cash. In the 1970s Michael Jensen, a scholar, argued that debt forced discipline on managers. His ideas were taken too far by Wall Street’s junk-bond salesmen, but the risk of executives wasting cash on deals or vanity projects is real. The five biggest tech firms have over $550bn sitting around. They might try big takeovers—think of Apple buying Netflix. Meanwhile, some newly listed firms have oodles of cash, but give outside investors only limited voting power, making managers unaccountable.

最后一个危险来源于一群已经拥有过多现金的公司。在20世纪70年代,学者 Michael Jensen 提出,债务会迫使管理者遵守纪律。华尔街的垃圾债券推销员把他的理念捧得过高,但高管们在交易和面子工程上浪费现金的风险是真实存在的。五大科技公司的闲置资金超过5500亿美元。他们可能会尝试大规模的收购——比如苹果收购奈飞。同时,一些新上市的公司拥有大量的现金,但仅给外部投资者很有限的投票权,这使得管理者对投资者不负责任。


A: I love your bag Jennifer! It’s gorgeous ! Where did you get it .

B: I bought it online from an American website. It was half price. In fact , all the major US shopping site are having their big summer sales . You can snag a lot of great deals .

A: Really ? What else did you buy?

B: I got a whole bunch of different things : clothes , jeans , shoes , bags , … you name it .

A: How long did shopping take?

B: About three weeks .

A: Are the prices good ? What are the discounts like?

B: Anywhere between 30% to 50% off. I can recommend a few sites to you. You can find most brands there, whether it’s designer or mass market.

A: I’ve been hesitant to shop on American websites though . I mean if the clothes don’t fit , can you ask for exchange or refund?

B: Most big websites offer very good exchange and refund policies . I’ve never had problems with that .

A: How do taxes work ? Do you have to pay a lot ?

B: Well , they used to slip under the radar (雷达), but it’s a lot striker now . That’s why I chose the DHL option since taxes are pre-calculated.

A: How much tax did you have to pay ?

B: It was around 30%. But even with taxes , it was still a steal compared to prices here.

A: Alright , I’m sold . Which sites do you use?

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