‘There were some significant transactions last year,’ says Paul Etheridge, head of corporate advisory at share registration business Capita Registrars. ‘We were involved in a number of the Main Market listings, including the IPOs of Jupiter Fund Management, AZ Electronics and the airline Flybe.’
Capita currently acts as registrar to around 1,500 companies across both AIM and the Main Market of the London Stock Exchange (LSE), as well as providing investor relations, company secretarial and corporate action support services to listed businesses. Etheridge adds that over the past five years the company has managed more than 50 per cent of all London IPOs.
‘We had higher expectations of the market for 2010, but we found that a number of deals had moving timetables in terms of completion,’ he says. ‘All are generally dependent upon windows of opportunity in the market when institutions will make their decisions, among other factors.’
Etheridge adds that there were a number of IPOs in 2010 that didn’t get away. ‘At the beginning of the year there was press speculation that companies such as New Look, Travelport and Merlin Entertainment were considering a listing, but actually none of those came through.’
Despite a difficult year for most businesses trying to raise finance, Etheridge says that ‘good stories’ are still welcomed by investors. He adds, ‘Fund managers and institutions have become a lot pickier and more risk averse, but for the appropriate business we understand there is money there to invest.’
While institutions remained cautious, last year saw the return of ‘retail offers’, in which companies allocate a block of their IPO to individual investors, according to Phil Roberts, deputy head of corporate advisory at Capita Registrars.
He cites the July flotation of the online grocery company Ocado. ‘We developed technology so that people could look at the prospectus and apply for shares online, and then once they’d made their investment decision they could pay online too,’ he says.
Roberts adds that this practice, which was used during privatisations several years ago, saw a resurgence in popularity in 2010.
Capita has witnessed some large deals over the year, handling the £3.2 billion rights issue by National Grid in May, as well as the £2.5 billion takeover of SSL by consumer products company Reckitt Benckiser in July.
In the autumn of 2010, Capita was also involved in two high-profile takeovers of nationwide restaurant operators. September saw Portuguese-style restaurant chain Nando’s acquire Clapham House, the group that operates the Gourmet Burger Kitchen and The Real Greek brands. This was followed swiftly by the £90 million acquisition of the Italian-themed eatery Carluccio’s by the global retail conglomerate Landmark Group, through its subsidiary C1 Acquisitions in October.
The company also saw a number of IPOs on AIM, in what was generally acknowledged to be a difficult year to list. In March, the healthcare software company EMIS Group achieved a market capitalisation of £137 million on its flotation, while later in the year business outsourcing company iEnergizer achieved a similarly respectable £174 million in its September AIM debut.
Etheridge comments that a number of the IPOs last year were in the natural resources and oil and gas sectors, such as the Australian operator Bellzone Mining, which raised £184.5 million when it came to AIM in March. He has noticed an increasing number of foreign companies looking to list on the UK markets. ‘London is the place to list,’ he says. ‘It’s got the liquidity and the profile, which makes it an attractive proposition for overseas companies.’
In November, Capita was involved in the IPO on AIM of the Indian energy company Jubilant Energy, which raised $85 million (£53.4 million). ‘India is a growing trend – in 2010 there were five companies with Indian assets that floated on AIM, and Capita was involved in three of them,’ Etheridge observes. ‘In 2011, I expect that Russia and India are going to be quite prominent sources of deals.’
In common with India and Russia, Etheridge says that other overseas companies in varying jurisdictions have also begun to look toward the LSE, many of them from the mining and minerals sectors. He adds, ‘As their economies start to mature, they’re naturally looking to stock exchanges around the world to raise awareness and gain parity with their sector peers on what is arguably one of the best exchanges in the world.’