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Year's Largest IPO May Win Support From Wall Street Next Week

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Weeks after becoming the largest U.S. listing of 2018, Axa Equitable Holdings Inc. is trading below the price range that investors were originally asked to pay at its initial public offering. But an incoming round of analyst initiations could create a much louder argument for upside in the American business of French insurance giant Axa SA.

On June 4, a quiet period expires for perhaps the most amicable analysts on Wall Street: those working at banks that underwrote Axa Equitable’s IPO last month. The expiration will probably prompt initiations from lead banks Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays and Citigroup, plus other underwriters including Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs. In total, 24 banks served as underwriters on the $3.2 billion deal.

(Related: AXA Equitable Shares Debut on New York Stock Exchange)

The shares have risen 6.8% since the May 9 offering at $20 per share, outpacing financial peers. But the stock remains below the $24-$27 range that banks were asking from IPO investors, a sign that analysts may argue the stock remains undervalued.

But a more cautious approach from analysts could send shares downward. Ahead of the initiations, short interest represents 5.8% of the stock’s float, according to data by S3 Partners.

The striking down of a proposed fiduciary rule created more stability for the variable annuity market, Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Jeffrey Flynn wrote in a May 31 note. But growth in fee income could slow on softer markets and mostly negative flows, he warned.

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