Indigestion or vigour to follow blockbuster year for capital markets?

By Refinitiv
 — 1 minute read

Promoted by Refinitiv

Global capital markets maintained their high-altitude during 2021, with both debt and equity issuance maintaining post-pandemic cruising speeds. Quarterly data suggests debt markets may have begun their descent before the year was out, but risk-on markets such as IPOs continued to rocket skywards.


  1. It was a record-breaking year in equity capital markets, where global equity issuance set a new high of $1.3trn.
  2. IPOs up 83 percent to hit $413bn all-time record. The U.S alone saw an increase of 78 percent to reach $150bn.
  3. For a second successive year, debt markets topped $10trn. However, there was a retraction in H2.

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In 2021, global equity markets eclipsed the pandemic year of 2020 to set an all-time record for global equity raisings. Meanwhile, a flurry of year-end deals offered little sign that the market for equity capital was slowing.

Equity markets ended the year 19 percent up on 2020, raising $1.3trn from 7,206 issuances. A lull over the summer period was followed by a 20 percent surge in the final three months of the year, with Q4 surpassing $300bn for the sixth quarter since the start of the pandemic, driven mainly by larger deals.

The global picture on equity capital markets

The U.S. domination of the ECM markets was somewhat eroded, from enjoying a one-third market-share in 2020 to 29 percent in 2021.

By contrast, Asia-Pacific enjoyed 21 percent surge in equity issuance to $463bn, giving it one-quarter of the market. EMEA issuers also played catch up, with a 35 percent increase in equity issuance on 2020. The European market was dominated by a strong UK showing in both number and value of equity issuances.

Best year ever for global IPOs

The global market for initial public offerings had a spectacular resurgence in 2021, having spent much of the past decade in a plateau.

Global IPO activity (including SPACs) totalled $413bn, an increase of 83 percent on 2020, and the strongest showing since records began in 1980. New listings were driven by U.S. stock exchanges, which saw a 78 percent increase, to surpass $150bn in capital from nearly 400 newly minted public companies.

The U.S. market was given a major year-end bump by the ‘outlier’ flotation of electric truck business Rivian Automotive, raising debut proceeds of nearly $14bn.

On the other side of the Atlantic, European IPOs bounced back from a forgettable 2020, but remained well below the pre-pandemic 2017-2019 positive trend line.

Despite this bounce in first-time offerings, the market for secondary issuances continued to dominate. It set an all-time record of $691bn, from 4,600, up 3 percent in aggregate value compared with the previous year.

Refinitiv’s rankings for global equity underwriters show the top five leaderboard static since 2019, with Goldman leading the pack, followed by Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, BofA Securities and Citi.

It will be interesting to see whether January’s jitters around tech stocks will turn into prolonged indigestion or whether the IPO party will continue into the new year.

Debt tops $10trn for second time

Global debt markets saw a second consecutive year topping $10trn – $10.2trn to be exact, from 29,124 offerings – an astonishing achievement, even if it was 3 percent off the all-time record of 2020.

However strong the full year tally, 2021 was a game of two-halves for debt markets. A drop off in Q3 was compounded in Q4 by a further 14 percent decline in both number and value of offerings, to levels not unknown before the pandemic.

The fall was largely accounted for by investment-grade corporate debt, which saw a full year decline of 6 percent to $4.6trn, while still coming in as the second strongest ever year. The U.S. dollar marketplace saw the most pronounced fall, down 22 percent on 2020.

While the corporate-grade growth engine idled, global high-yield debt surged past the $600bn threshold. It increased by 17 percent on the year to hit nearly $650bn, as slightly smaller, riskier and private equity backed issuers came to market.

However, in the global market for high yield, 2021 was an even more pronounced ‘game of two halves’, with H2 activity plummeting back towards pre-pandemic levels.

Another strong contribution to the total came from green bonds, which smashed previous records to raise $485bn. According to data from Refinitiv and the Climate Bonds Initiative, this almost doubled the amount raised in 2020, up by 98 percent.

In other markets, emerging market corporate debt issuance ticked up 2 percent to $384bn, a rise that was more than off-set by a 3 percent fall in international bond offerings to $5.1trn.

JP Morgan continued a four-year streak as the top underwriter for global debt, followed by Citi, BofA Securities and Goldman, respectively.

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Indigestion or vigour to follow blockbuster year for capital markets?

Promoted by Refinitiv

Global capital markets maintained their high-altitude during 2021, with both debt and equity issuance maintaining post-pandemic cruising speeds. Quarterly data suggests debt markets may have begun their descent before the year was out, but risk-on markets such as IPOs continued to rocket skywards.

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