Going public: The role of accounting and shareholder value in making sense of an IPO

Kalle Kraus, Torkel Strömsten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


This study draws on interviews with corporate executives from four companies that went public and financial analysts involved in evaluating these firms. Top managers in all companies became more focused on short-term financial results than they had been when the companies were private. We contribute to existing research by analyzing, empirically and theoretically, the processes producing this focus. Following an IPO process offered a unique insight into a gradual increase in emphasis on accounting metrics through the outcomes of guided and restricted sensemaking. When preparing for the IPO, guided sensemaking produced an IPO prospectus incorporating quantitative and qualitative commitments. Quantitative commitments were based on accounting metrics, such as earnings per share and profit margin, which provided an important foundation for the financial focus. These commitments became the anchor for subsequent sensegiving and restricted sensemaking when the companies were listed. With the financial analysts as the social anchors, the richer communication in the prospectus was narrowed down to comprise an exclusive focus on the quantitative accounting commitments. The long-term accounting commitments in the prospectus were transformed into short-term targets that must be met when the financial measures served as specific and concrete extracted cues to quickly provide structure to the uncertain situation, gain the financial analysts' confidence and sustain action. One year after the IPO, the financial focus was taken for granted and managers had accepted the rules of the game.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)186-201
Number of pages16
JournalManagement Accounting Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Accounting metrics
  • Capital market pressure
  • Financial analysts
  • Financial focus
  • Initial public offering
  • Sensegiving
  • Sensemaking
  • Shareholder value
  • Socialization
  • Top management

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