Thursday 17 July 2014

There is something different about this booming IPO market

It struck me the other day that amid the recent IPO euphoria there appeared to be fewer foreign companies coming to list on the London market.

This year has seen the best first quarter for flotations since the first three months of 2007 but on the surface it seems to me that most of the recent floats have been private equity-backed businesses or entrepreneur-owned companies based in the UK.

So, I asked the number crunchers round at data provider Dealogic to see whether my theory was correct.

It turns out I might be onto something. According to the Dealogic data, 2014 has seen far fewer floats and listings of foreign companies in London than during the previous bumper IPO years of 2006 and 2007.

And Alibaba's recent decision to aim for a multi-billion dollar listing in the US rather than London (despite much wooing from David Cameron) would seem to reinforce the theory that the UK is being snubbed by foreign companies looking for listings.

Alibaba, China's largest e-commerce company, said in June it would list on the New York Stock Exchange with an estimated market value of around $168 billion.

I asked David Buik, the veteran market commentator round at the venerable stockbroker Panmure Gordon, why he thought the London market was beginning to see this trend.

"Other exchanges, such as Singapore and Hong Kong, have become a lot more competitive," said Buik.

He also pointed out that: "We relied heavily on Russian companies coming to London but now there are fewer of them opting to list over here for obvious reasons [such as the West imposing sanctions on Russia following clashes with Ukraine]".

Buik's talk is backed up by data, with Dealogic showing that in 2007 22 companies from the CIS (the former Soviet republic) region listed in London but this year just 1 from the area has decided to float in the UK.

Last year's ENRC debacle and the introduction of the FCA's new regulations for premium listed corporations (i.e FTSE 100 businesses) are also believed to be some of the reasons why big foreign companies have decided against flotations in London and opted for a listings elsewhere.

Indeed, reports suggest that ENRC spent more than £200m on advisers' (lawyers, bankers and non-executive directors) fees just for its London listing and the compliance procedures that came with it.

However, when the company's troubles started a couple of years ago many of these advisers gave up their mandates, leaving the Kazakh group in the lurch.

As a result, the London market's reputation in the CIS region may have been tarnished, according to the Eurasian Review, which argues the City of London "should start to regarding companies coming from emerging markets as partners if it hopes to rebuild its reputation as the world's leading financial center". Here is a link to the Eurasian Review piece on the matter:

So, I guess for the moment British investors will have to settle for the likes of Jiasen, a Chinese home products manufacturer, as potential investment opportunities from abroad - the company this week floated on the Alternative Investment Market with a market cap of around £100m!

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