US Mid-Market Equity House: Piper Sandler

IFR Awards 2022
4 min read
Robert Sherwood

Front row seat
In a year when jumbo IPOs were scarce, Piper Sandler’s leadership role on Corebridge Financial’s spin-off from its parent AIG proved a major coup. For sustaining long-standing client relationships while making prudent acquisitions, Piper Sandler is IFR’s US Mid-Market Equity House of the Year.

US Mid-Market Equity House

As US IPO volumes dried up in 2022, Piper Sandler found itself in elite company as one of three top-line bookrunners for the US$1.68bn NYSE IPO of Corebridge Financial, the largest US new issue of 2022.

Piper was lead active bookrunner on Corebridge, working to the right of JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley atop a 40-plus-firm syndicate.

The Minneapolis-based investment bank’s relationship with American International Group had its seeds in the firm’s transformative US$485m purchase in 2019 of Sandler O’Neill & Partners, a FIG-focused New York boutique. Piper changed its name from Piper Jaffray after buying Sandler O’Neill.

Piper’s senior role on Corebridge ruffled some feathers at larger banks, yet those that worked on the deal came away impressed by the bank’s performance.

“Piper was a legitimate bookrunner,” one senior ECM banker at a bulge-bracket firm who also worked on the Corebridge IPO told IFR.

September was a tough time to be marketing any IPO, let alone the largest deal of the year.

Piper helped solidify demand through an extensive pre-marketing effort and six days of public marketing that culminated in AIG selling 80m Corebridge shares at US$21 each, the bottom of the US$21–$24 range. A key tenet of the pitch was a valuation of 0.65 time adjusted book value at pricing and Corebridge’s stable cashflows. Corebridge shares have hovered around US$20 since their debut.

Corebridge was not Piper’s only large IPO mandate.

ProFrac Holding’s US$328.1m Nasdaq IPO in May was another example of Piper converting a legacy relationship into a coveted mandate.

ProFrac’s founders, brothers Dan and Farris Wilks, had previously worked with Simmons, an energy-focused bank that Piper bought in 2015.

Piper placed fifth for US-listed IPOs with league table credit of US$431.6m, jumping seven spots and ranking ahead of Citigroup. Including follow-ons, the bank was credited with US$1.1bn of business across 20 bookrun offerings.

Though biotech issuance slowed in 2022, the cash-hungry sector still dominated ECM activity, working to one of Piper’s strengths.

Piper led 11 biotech deals including Acrivon Therapeutics’ US$94.4m Nasdaq IPO in November and follow-ons for Biohaven (US$262.5m) and Nuvalent (US$230m).

Biohaven’s follow-on in October was Piper’s largest biotech mandate.

The offering was almost a re-IPO for Biohaven after being spun off following Pfizer’s US$11.6bn purchase of predecessor Biohaven Pharmaceuticals earlier in the year.

Despite some dismal trading performances from 2021’s IPO class, Piper returned to the market in August with a US$225.5m sell-down of shares in restaurant chain Portillo’s on behalf of sponsor Berkshire Partners.

Another string

Piper laid the groundwork for building in technology in 2020 by hiring Matthew Wolfe as head of technology ECM working under David Stadinski, the firm’s global head of ECM.

In October Piper completed the purchase of Silicon Valley firm DBO Partners that brought more than 50 investment bankers aboard, and prepares the firm for when technology and software IPOs eventually resume.

“We’ve had a lot of success with Simmons and Sandler and are very excited about DBO,” Chad Abraham, Piper’s CEO, said in a recent conference call.

“It has been a tough time for software and technology but that’s when we like to build the platform.”

Including DBO, Piper now has 159 managing directors covering seven industry verticals (healthcare, technology, chemicals, consumer, industrials, energy & power and financial services) and 40 subsectors, up from 44 MDs across four industries 10 years ago.

The platform includes 60-plus research analysts covering more than 1,000 companies.

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