Many American investors have been obsessed with initial public offerings (IPOs) since the dot-com boom of the late 1990s, and even that bubble's burst didn't curb their enthusiasm for long.

Some investors are in it for a quick buck but others want to get in on Day 1 and stay in for a company's earliest growth spurt.

The big question is, how does that work out? Below, we look at the five biggest ipos that launched in 2018, most to great fanfare, to find out how they did for their first year to two years, up until late 2020.

First, cast your mind back to 2018. What made it such a great year for IPOs? Most of the year experienced very strong market conditions overall, making it an ideal time to go public. Corporate earnings set records for the second quarter as S&P 500 companies earned an average of $38.65 per share. Consumer confidence reached its highest levels in nearly 20 years by September. Then, the final weeks of the year erased the gains of the previous several months in the market and sent the S&P into losses for 2018 overall.

The five IPO companies below were the biggest of the year in terms of overall size of launch. We'll compare their launch-day close with their 2020 year-to-date (YTD) returns and their one-year returns for the period ending Nov. 6, 2020.

Key Takeaways

  • SPOT took off in 2020, rising nearly 86% year-over-year.
  • EQH closed at $22.98 in Nov . 6,2020, barely budging from its IPO-day close of $20.61.
  • PDD was up +202.83% in the year ending Nov. 6, 2020.

1. Spotify Technology S.A. (SPOT)

  • Sector: Technology
  • IPO size: $9.2 billion
  • IPO first-day close: $168
  • YTD 2020: +84.62%
  • 1-year change: +85.95%

Note: SPOT didn't really take off until 2020 but it has moved fast since. It closed the day on Nov. 6, 2020, at $256.38.

2. AXA Equitable Holdings, Inc. (EQH)

  • Sector: Financials
  • IPO size: $2.7 billion
  • IPO first-day close: $20.61
  • YTD 2020: -8.8%
  • 1-Year Change: +1.25%

Note: EQH had a rocky ride in the second half of 2019 but made a comeback in 2020. It closed Nov. 6, 2020, at $22.98.

3. PagSeguro Digital Ltd. (PAGS)

  • Sector: Technology
  • IPO size: $2.3 billion
  • IPO first-day close: $38.32
  • YTD 2020: +29.45%
  • 1-Year Change: +29.87%

Note: PAGS has been a roller-coaster stock, but 2020 has been an uphill ride. The stock closed on Nov. 6, 2020, at $43.63.

4. iQiyi, Inc. (IQ)

  • Sector: Consumer goods
  • IPO size: $2.3 billion
  • IPO first-day close: $15.56
  • YTD 2020: +22.22%
  • 1-Year Change: +47.77%

Note: IQ investors didn't always feel all that smart, but they've gotten a big boost in 2020. It closed at $25.80 on Nov. 6, 2020.

5. Pinduoduo, Inc. (PDD)

  • Sector: Technology
  • IPO size: $1.6 billion
  • IPO first-day close: $26.29
  • YTD 2020: +202.83%
  • 1-Year Change: +163.35%

Note: PDD got off to a slow start but it's cooking now. The stock closed on Nov. 6, 2020, at $202.83.

Spotify Technology S.A.

The largest IPO in terms of overall size and in terms of investor anticipation was for Swedish music streaming service Spotify Technology S.A. (SPOT). However, the unusual method of going public makes Spotify's IPO a bit difficult to categorize. The company decided on a direct listing, a sort of "non-IPO", in which the company sells shares directly to the public and without any brokers or banks to act as intermediaries. Essentially, the process allowed all existing investors, including company employees, to sell their shares to the public, and no new shares were issued in the process. Some estimates for the size of the IPO ranged close to $30 billion, but in all likelihood, the total offering was much smaller.

AXA Equitable Holdings, Inc.

Raising more than $2.7 billion, AXA Equitable Holdings, Inc. (EQH) logged the second-largest IPO of the year. The company represents the American operations arm of the French insurance company AXA SA. Even given the massive haul, the AXA IPO reportedly fell short of its targeted share sale.

PagSeguro Digital Ltd.

Brazilian payment services company PagSeguro Digital Ltd. (PAGS) earned an estimated $2.3 billion in its IPO. The company offered more than 105 million shares at $21.50 each. PagSeguro, founded in 2006, is a major payment services company for small businesses across Brazil. It has set as one of its primary goals the support of a digital payment infrastructure to allow e-commerce to continue to grow in Brazil.

iQiyi, Inc.

Raising just slightly less than PagSeguro was Chinese video streaming service iQiyi, Inc. (IQ). The company earned about $2.3 billion through its IPO. However, the company's share price dropped significantly immediately after the offering. The Chinese Netflix competitor is a subdivision of Baidu, the producer of China's largest search engine. Although Baidu has now spun iQiyi off into its own entity, it retains majority ownership.

Pinduoduo, Inc.

Yet another Chinese company launched a successful IPO in the U.S., earning it a spot among the biggest public offerings of the year. Pinduoduo IPO'd at $19 per American depositary share. As a result, the company raised more than $1.6 billion in its public offering. Pinduoduo is an online shopping platform that offers customers the chance to gang up to earn greater discounts from merchants. Pinduoduo managed to outpace other popular and highly-anticipated Chinese-U.S. public offerings around the same time, including that of Tencent Entertainment. Tencent earned about $1.2 billion in its IPO, just barely failing to make it onto the list of the top five IPOs of the year.