LONDON (Reuters) - British home and motor insurer esure plans to list up to half its shares in London next month, valuing the company at as much as 1 billion pounds ($1.5 billion) and raising money to wipe out debt and boost growth.
Esure, which insures about 5 percent of Britain’s drivers, is going public as a stock market upturn revives interest in new share issues after years of subdued activity because of the global financial crisis.
While the election stalemate in debt-laden Italy has weighed on European markets this week, esure founder and chairman Peter Wood told Reuters: “There is always going to be some wobble or headwind. The market is not too bad”.
Wood, esure’s biggest investor with a stake of about 50 percent, will sell a maximum of a third of his holding, he said, while buyout firm Tosca Penta, the second-biggest shareholder, will offload about half its stake.
Esure will also sell 50 million pounds of new shares to repay debt, bringing the total stake being sold to 35-50 percent.
While the company did not say how much the initial public offering (IPO) was expected to raise in total, two people familiar with the deal said it was likely to be in the region of 500 million pounds.
In 2010, Wood led a consortium that paid 200 million pounds for a 70 percent stake in esure held by Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY.L).
The entrepreneur, who in 1985 pioneered telephone-based insurance sales in Britain with the launch of Direct Line (DLGD.L), founded esure 13 years ago as a joint venture with mortgage lender Halifax, itself acquired by Lloyds (LLOY.L) in 2008.
Esure’s IPO comes four months after that of Direct Line, still majority-owned by Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L) and whose shares have risen 20 percent since their debut.
Earlier this month, British housebuilder Crest Nicholson (CRST.L) returned to the London stock market, while estate agent Countrywide Holdings is also marketing a planned London offering to investors.
Esure, which owns the female-focused Sheilas’ Wheels brand, also said 2012 pretax profit more than doubled to 115 million pounds.
Up to 15 percent of the Esure offering will be allocated to retail investors, who stand to benefit from comparatively high returns as the insurer ploughs half after-tax profit into shareholder payouts, Wood said.
Deutsche Bank and J.P. Morgan Cazenove are acting as joint global co-ordinator and joint bookrunner on the sale, while Canaccord Genuity and Numis Securities are acting as co-lead managers.
($1 = 0.6608 pound)
Additional reporting by Sinead Cruise; Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford and Dan Lalor