UPDATE 1-Statoil prices fuel-arm IPO near top of range

Thu Oct 21, 2010 12:09pm BST

Quotes

   

* Fuel and retail division IPO seen worth $800 million

* Investors drawn by steady margins, East Europe prospects

* Follows trend of successful European IPOs in past weeks

* Statoil shares up 0.4 pct at 1006 GMT vs 0.46 index

(Recasts with comments, analysts, background)

By Wojciech Moskwa

OSLO, Oct 21 (Reuters) - Norway's Statoil (STL.OL) priced its filling station unit's initial public offering (IPO) near the top of its range on Thursday, luring investors with promises of stable returns in the boom-and-bust oil sector.

Statoil -- the Nordic region's biggest company, worth $67 billion -- said its fuel and retail division will likely fetch 39 Norwegian crowns ($6.67) per share, against its indicated 32 to 41 crown range and valuing the spin-off at $2 billion.

The Norwegian offer, now seen worth $800 million, confirms a resurgence in European public offerings over past weeks, as equity markets recover and risk aversion abides.

"Statoil Fuel & Retail is pleased with the oversubscription level and the composition of the institutional (investor) ... demand," the company said in a statement. "The offering is now expected to be priced at 39 crowns per share."

The offering closed at 1000 GMT on Thursday, and the final price announcement is expected before 0700 GMT on Friday, when it will start trading on the Oslo Stock Exchange.

"Equity markets are improving so the demand situation is better, and that is part of the story here as well," said Anne Groeen, analyst at Handelsbanken.

"But this is also a specific case -- this company offers relatively stable earnings in a highly cyclical sector."

Statoil is selling 40 percent of its 300 million shares in Statoil Fuel & Retail and will remain the dominant owner of a company with 2,300 service stations across Scandinavia, Poland, the Baltics and Russia.

RETAIL PLAY?

Some analysts see the IPO as a play on consumer spending in Scandinavia, a region whose developed economies are recovering following sharp recessions -- especially in Sweden and Denmark.

"It offers stability and exposure to recovering Scandinavian markets and growth prospects in central and Eastern Europe," said Einar Stroemstad, analyst at First Securities.

The European IPO market been picking up with large transactions such as the $2 billion listing of Danish Jeweller Pandora (PNDORA.CO) in early October boosting sentiment. [ID:nLDE69H1K6]

Other companies seeking to benefit from this momentum include Italian utility Enel (ENEI.MI), which is spinning off part of its renewable energy arm in a 3.4-billion-euro IPO that is due to wrap up next week. [ID:nLDE69H09X]

The last significant floatation of a European retailer was a $188 million IPO from British fashion business SuperGroup (SGP.L) in March, which proved highly profitable for investors as the shares have since doubled from its listing price.

Russian retailer O'Key plans to raise up to $491 million in a London IPO that launched this week. [ID:nLDE69I0FY] (Additional reporting by Christopher Vellacott in London; Editing by Dan Lalor, Sharon Lindores) ($1=5.525 Crown) ($1=5.850 Norwegian Crown)

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