IPO Wish List: 3 Private Companies I Really Wish Were Public

Let’s face it, there haven’t been a lot of high-profile IPOs in 2023. Arm (NASDAQ:ARM) tried to spice things up. It started trading on Sept. 14 on the Nasdaq. Its shares closed its first day up nearly 25%. However, they’ve lost most of those gains in the days since, trading mere cents above the IPO priceArm is the biggest of the year to date, raising nearly $5 billion from the IPO. When compared to other IPOs, it is the 17th-largest in U.S. history. 

According to Renaissance Capital, there have been 78 IPOs in 2023, raising $16.6 billion. That’s an average of $212.8 million per IPO. Take out Arm’s IPO, and the average drops to $153 million. This year’s numbers are abysmal compared to the $142.4 billion raised in 2021.

If I had it my way, these three private companies would go public tomorrow.

Mars

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According to Forbes, Mars is the fourth-largest private company in America, with annual revenue of $45 billion. Investopedia says that the Mars family is the second wealthiest family in the world with a net worth of $166 billion, second only to the Waltons, who made their money through Walmart (NYSE:WMT). 

While the company is best known for candy bars such as the iconic Mars and Snickers bars, its snacking business is only one of three major operating segments. The other two being pet care and food & nutrition. Of course, its snacking business generates a significant portion of its overall revenue. In 2022, its U.S. confectionery sales were $20 billion, according to Statistia, accounting for approximately 44% of its overall sales. 

In pet care, not only does it have pet food brands such as Royal Canin, Whiskas, Pedigree and Iams, but it also has a prominent position in veterinary care through vet clinics in multiple countries. Mars Food & Nutrition is based in London. Its brands include Ben’s Original Rice and Dolmio pasta sauces. Mondelez International (NASDAQ:MDLZ) has a price-to-sales ratio of 2.84. Assuming Mars had a similar valuation as a public company, its market capitalization would be $128 billion, about one-third larger than the maker of Oreo’s.

Cox Enterprises

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Cox Enterprises is America’s 13th largest private company, with $20.9 billion in revenue. Cox’s radio and television stations and cable businesses went public in 1964, operating as Cox Broadcasting. Its newspapers remained privately owned. In 1982, the company was renamed Cox Communications. Three years later, Cox Enterprises took Cox Communications private, buying the 60% it didn’t own. 

Cox Enterprises has three businesses, Cox Communications, Cox Automotive and New Ventures. Cox Communications is the third-largest cable provider in the U.S., with more than $13 billion in revenueAs its name implies, Cox Automotive operates several brands that help people buy, sell, and own cars and trucks more quickly. Its brands include Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book, Clutch Technologies and Manheim Auctions. Digital Media is one of four verticals in which its New Ventures business invests. Cox acquired Axios in 2022 for $522 million. It wants to work with Axios to grow local news in the U.S. Axios remains profitable.

SC Johnson

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SC Johnson is the 40th-largest private company in America, with $11.1 billion. It’s been around for over 130 years, founded by Samuel Curtis Johnson in 1886. Its products include Glade, Pledge, Raid, Ziploc, Windex and many more. In 2020, Forbes estimated the Johnson family was worth $37 billion, making them the 6th-wealthiest family in America. 

The company has a history of organic growth and through acquisitions. Its most recent acquisition was Stasher in December 2019. Stasher makes high-quality, reusable silicone storage bags that can be used thousands of times over their lifetime. They also provide an alternative to consumers who already buy Ziploc bags. However, in terms of dollars spent, the company’s October 2019 acquisition of Sun Bum for $400 million was one of its most significant. Before acquiring the sun-care brand, SC Johnson had no exposure to the beauty category.

One thing you might not know about the Johnson family, a number of them own prominent, controlling positions in Johnson Outdoors (NASDAQ:JOUT), the outdoor gear company founded by one-time SC Johnson CEO Samuel C. Johnson in 1970. His daughter, Helen-Johnson Leopold, now runs the outdoor business. That’s probably as close as investors will get to a publicly traded SC Johnson. That’s too bad.

On the date of publication, Will Ashworth did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

Will Ashworth has written about investments full-time since 2008. Publications where he’s appeared include InvestorPlace, The Motley Fool Canada, Investopedia, Kiplinger, and several others in both the U.S. and Canada. He particularly enjoys creating model portfolios that stand the test of time. He lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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