What Is a Roadshow?

A roadshow is a series of presentations made in various locations leading up to an initial public offering (IPO). The roadshow is a sales pitch or promotion made by the underwriting firm and a company's management team to potential investors before going public. Roadshows generally take place in major cities and are meant to drum up interest in the upcoming offer. Potential investors are introduced to the company, its history, and its key personnel.

  • A roadshow is a series of presentations made in various locations leading up to an initial public offering.
  • The roadshow is a sales pitch to potential investors by the underwriting firm and a company's executive management team.
  • Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba's roadshow contributed to the overwhelming enthusiasm surrounding the company's IPO.

Understanding Roadshows

When a company decides to go public, the members of the investment firm responsible to underwrite or issue the IPO travel around the country in a roadshow to present the investment opportunity to potential investors. Most roadshows include stops in major cities like Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City.

A successful roadshow is often critical to the success of the IPO. The goal of the roadshow is to generate excitement about the company and its IPO. By traveling to different cities, underwriters introduce the IPO to institutional investors, analysts, fund managers, and hedge funds to interest them in the security. The roadshow also provides an opportunity for the underwriters to introduce the company's management and for investors to hear management's vision and goals for the company.

The goal of the roadshow is to generate enthusiasm surrounding the company's upcoming IPO, which means the success of the IPO depends on a successful roadshow.

Roadshow events may attract hundreds of prospective buyers interested in learning more about the offering in a face-to-face setting and online. Events may include multimedia presentations and question-and-answer sessions. Many companies may hold smaller, private meetings in the months and weeks leading up to the IPO, while the majority livestream some of their events to those who can't attend. Some of the topics covered during a roadshow include the company’s history and any future plans. Other information may include:

  • A video or digital media presentation
  • Meeting the executive management
  • The unique value proposition of the company
  • Earnings and financial performance
  • Prior sales growth with projections and forecasts
  • The investment opportunity and growth potential
  • IPO stock price target

The roadshow is essential to the IPO since it provides a forum where the company can communicate directly with potential investors to address any concerns or highlight successes. The underwriters also use information gathered from investors to complete the book-building process, which involves gathering prices potential investors are willing to pay for the offering.

Once a roadshow is complete, the final prospectus is created and distributed to potential investors. This prospectus is also filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). An initial price for the offering is set based on the information gathered during the book-building process, and the IPO date is solidified.

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What's a Road Show?

Special Considerations

Not all roadshows involve an IPO. In fact, there are cases where companies travel across the country to talk to investors even when they aren't going public. These are called non-deal roadshows (NDRs). These roadshows occur when executives hold discussions with current and potential investors, but no equity or debt security is offered. NDRs are carried out to provide public information to investors, including updates on the company's existing business and vision for the future. NDRs involve meeting with key investors to keep them updated on how the company is performing.

Example of a Roadshow

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group (BABA) posted the largest IPO ever by raising $25 billion in 2014 while the underwriters involved took home $300 million. The IPO was so successful that the stock price surged 38% in its debut. But enthusiasm for the IPO began well before the stock began trading. The roadshow included the financial numbers but also a video history of the company narrated by co-founder and Chairman Jack Ma.

The roadshow was such a success with investors that it's likely the reason why the IPO price range was increased to $66 to $68 from the earlier published $60 to $66 range. Although the increase in the price range may not appear to be impressive, it's important to remember that the company sold over 300 million shares during its IPO.