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Hambrecht Previews the Next 18 Months

Om Malik interviewed my old boss Bill Hambrecht about the state of the economy and the future of the IPO in Silicon Valley. Watch the whole thing. Hambrecht has worked on transparency in the pricing of securities for many years. His ideas about using a modified dutch auction to price initial public offerings are still revolutionary.

Hambrecht’s explanation of the subprime mortgage crisis is one of the clearest I’ve heard. Mortgage backed securities are traded in a dealer-to-dealer market without transparent and continuous pricing. Stocks are priced through a continuous auction on the stock exchanges. When a company has to voluntarily mark down the value of these mortgage-backed securities, they hesitate. When they’re finally forced to mark an asset down, there’s a big jump down in value. That change in value wrecks the balance sheet. Interestingly, it’s not a business or revenue issue– it’s a price/value of assets problem. Hambrecht’s solution has always been to allow the market to discover the appropriate price and make the process transparent.

Hambrecht thinks the consolidation of the bulge bracket investment banks means that big iBanks will only be doing big deals. Their cost structures will dictate a move toward the mega deal. The ground is being prepared for a new crop of boutique investment banks to bring the new crop of small companies public. My favorite quote in the interview? “It’s like 1968 all over again.”

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