London IPO market hit as Arqiva and Bakkavor pull floats

IPO market in Britain has been muted since Britons voted to leave the European Union in June 2016

FILE PHOTO: Pedestrians leave and enter the London Stock Exchange in London, Britain August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall/File Photo
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Broadcasting masts firm Arqiva and ready meals supplier Bakkavor abandoned plans for two of London’s biggest floats this year in a blow to Britain’s market for initial public offerings (IPOs).

The announcement of their float plans had driven hopes of a revival of the IPO market in Britain that has been muted since Britons voted to leave the European Union in June 2016. So far in 2017, British IPOs have raised US$5.2 billion, a 13 per cent drop from the same period in 2016.

The failure of the Arqiva and Bakkavor listings raises questions about the way the IPOs were managed and investor appetite for the flotations that have been offered.

Russian aluminum and hydropower group En+ Group went ahead with its London listing on Friday, but priced its global depositary receipts at $14, the lower end of its guided range. It slipped below its IPO price in early trade.

“Some of the quality of IPOs that are coming along, even the ones that have gotten done, have not been great,” said one equity capital market banker. “It’s not a question of demand, it’s a question of the quality of the supply of deals.”

Arqiva was “was too leveraged for the markets” and Bakkavor had not excited investors, he said, adding both firms had been too ambitious with the prices they had sought for their shares.

Arqiva, which has net debt of 3.4 billion pounds, had tried to sell itself before announcing its listing on October 23. It blamed “IPO market uncertainty” for postponing its float that it had hoped would raise about 1.5 billion pounds.

Bakkavor also announced it was pulling its listing because of “volatility” in the float market, despite having “received sufficient institutional demand to cover the offering”.

Arqiva had an implied enterprise value, which includes debt, of about 6bn pounds and would have been the biggest IPO in London this year. Sandwiches and dips supplier Bakkavor was targeting a market capitalization of about 1.5bn pounds.

Friday’s two pulled IPOs come after business services firm TMF scrapped its float on October 27 in favour of a 1.75 billion euro sale to private equity house CVC Capital Partners.

Richard Marwood, a fund manager at Royal London Asset Management, said the decision by Doughty Hanson’s TMF to drop its IPO “was a bit galling” for investors.

“Fund managers don’t like it when they’ve done all the work and that happens,” he said.

Sources close to both Arqiva and Bakkavor said the decision to pull the listings had been driven by the disappointing performance of recently-floated businesses in the UK and Europe.

London-listed cruise port operator Global Ports Holding, Austrian bank BAWAG, and French fashion group SMCP are all trading below their IPO prices.

Not all listings have slipped. Fashion and footwear retailer Footasylum floated at 164 pence a share in London on Thursday and surged to 193 pence on Friday. Shares in German metals recycling group Befesa also rose in debut trading on Friday.

Arqiva, which carried the BBC’s first television broadcast in 1936, said it would “revisit” its listing when conditions “improve”. But Bakkavor did not say in its statement whether it would revive its float at a later date.

The cancellation of their IPOs comes as Cabot Credit Management, Britain’s biggest debt collector, gears up for a float that could value it at about 1 billion pounds. A bookrunner on its listing said on Friday the price range for its shares was 210 pence to 260 pence.

Supermarket supplier Bakkavor, owned by Icelandic brothers Agust and Lydur Gudmundsson and U.S. hedge fund Baupost, is being advised by Rothschild, while HSBC, Morgan Stanley, Barclays, Citigroup, Rabobank and Peel Hunt have been working on its share sale.

Rothschild is also advising Arqiva and HSBC, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Cazenove were managing its listing.

The masts business is owned by a consortium that includes Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Macquarie.