Initial public offering (IPO)

Quick facts

An Initial public offering (IPO) marks the first time a company sells shares to the public. It’s also known as ‘listing’ or ‘floating’ on the public markets – which in the UK means a ‘new issue’ on the London Stock Exchange.

If you’re lucky enough to have a turnover of more than £5m (or you’ve reached unicorn status!) you might entertain the idea of an initial public offering (IPO).

In a UK IPO, you can sell shares in your business via three public markets operated by the London Stock Exchange: 

  • Main Market (Premium) – for established companies (home of the FTSE 100 and 250 indices)
  • Main Market (High Growth Segment) – for high-growth companies that in time want to become Premium listed companies
  • Alternative Investment Market (AIM) – for smaller, growing businesses looking to scale up to mature businesses.

An IPO is the first time a business raises finance publicly (before an IPO, you can only raise funds privately). Going public allows you to raise large sums of money from new investors (e.g. for expansion) and gain a large number of new shareholders while retaining control of your company). Existing (private) equity investors might drive an IPO because they’re looking to sell their stakes in your business.

An IPO is often called long-term, patient capital because once you have gone public; you can raise money time and time again, over years and even decades.

Public companies have to disclose financial information regularly. This means keeping shareholders and the market (including your competitors) updated with half-yearly and annual results. 

For more information you can read the London Stock Exchange’s Guide to listing.

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