Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

10 of the Biggest IPOs in History

        Money | The Stock Market

4
Visa

Ever since the consortium of banks that issued the first Visa card in 1977 became Visa International, investors chomped at the bit for the privately held American credit card giant to go public. They would have to wait 31 years before they got the chance. When Visa finally went public in March 2008, everyone expected a huge windfall for the company. Everyone was right.

On Tuesday, March 18, 2008, Visa made its initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange. Despite going public amid the beginning of the global financial crisis, Visa managed to rack up $17.9 billion in capital. By the end of the day, the company's stock traded at $44 a share [source: Benner]. The following day, it traded at $66 [source: Kaufman].

One reason Visa's IPO was so successful was the scrupulousness with which underwriters JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs eyed buyers. The bankers vetted out investors who might have flipped the shares they bought. Quick resales would have harmed the company's capital accumulation, since the market could have become flooded with already-purchased stocks.

Visa's IPO marked the largest in U.S. history at the time, demolishing AT&T's six-year-old record of $10.6 billion.