VC-Backed IPOs Pack in $1.5B Q1

(Reuters) – After a years-long chill, the market for venture-backed initial public offerings was heating up, the National Venture Capital Association and Thomson Reuters reported Monday.

Some 19 venture-backed companies went public in the first quarter of 2012, raising $1.5 billion and marking the strongest first quarter since 2007. That number compares with 14 companies raising $1.4 billion a year ago.

Venture capitalists hope that an improving market environment, combined with the passage in the United States last week of the Jobs Act, will continue to brighten the IPO market. The Jobs Act makes it easier for young companies to seek IPOs through measures such as loosening disclosure requirements.

The largest IPO of the quarter came from Indianapolis-based interactive-marketing company ExactTarget, which raised $161.5 million on the New York Stock Exchange in March.

Until Zynga’s IPO in 2011’s fourth quarter, non-U.S. companies dominated last year’s list of the largest IPOs. In the second quarter, Russian Internet provider Yandex raised $1.3 billion, and Chinese social network Renren raised $743 million. In the first quarter of 2011, the largest IPO was Netherlands-based InterXion, a provider of carrier-neutral data centers and managed services, which raised $264.9 million.

Most venture-backed companies continued to tap the mergers and acquisitions market for exits, with 86 venture-backed deals last quarter, compared with 109 deals in the first quarter of 2011. The average disclosed deal value was $113.8 million, down 5 percent from last year.

The life-sciences sector saw the biggest M&A deals, with Celgene Corp acquiring Avila Therapeutics, a Waltham, Massachusetts-based developer of small molecule therapeutics, for $350 million; and Covidien PLC acquiring Sunnyvale, California-based BARRX Medical for $325 million.

(Reporting By Sarah McBride; Editing by Maureen Bavdek)