Esure share sale hits £1.2bn as appetite for listings grows

MOTOR and home insurer esure yesterday completed a share sale valuing it at £1.2bn, making it London’s biggest new public share offering so far this year.

Founder and chairman Peter Wood, who owned almost half the company prior to the float, will bank around £186m from reducing his stake by a third, while esure expects to raise £50m from the sale of new shares to repay debt.

Esure priced the sale of a 50 per cent stake at 290p per share, towards the upper end of its original 240p to 310p range, and saw its shares open 8.6 per cent higher on their debut.

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The insurer’s successful offering gives another boost to Europe’s new listings market which, buoyed by improving stock markets, has picked up in recent months after years of subdued activity due to the financial crisis.

Yesterday, wind farms investment fund Greencoat UK Wind said it had raised £260m in an oversubscribed London flota-tion.

British estate agent Countrywide has seen its shares rise around 11 per cent since its stock market debut, while cabling equipment maker HellermannTyton is also due to complete a London listing on March 26.

Rising equity markets have fuelled a pick-up in initial public offerings (IPO) in recent months.

Housebuilder Crest Nicholson returned to the stock market earlier this month, fuelling hopes of a pick-up in the IPO market.

Esure, which insures about five per cent of Britain’s drivers, said 10.8 per cent of its offering had been bought by retail investors.

Mr Wood will remain esure’s largest shareholder following the float with a stake of 30.9 per cent, while buyout firm Tosca Penta Investments, which had just over 37 per cent before the listing, will retain around 11.6 per cent of the company, assuming an overallotment option is not exercised.

That option, whereby extra shares can be sold if demand is strong, could increase the size of the offer by 15 per cent.

In 2010 Mr Wood led a consortium that paid £200m for a 70 per cent stake in esure held by Lloyds Banking Group.

The entrepreneur, who in 1985 pioneered telephone-based insurance sales in Britain with the launch of Direct Line, founded esure 13 years ago as a joint venture with mortgage lender Halifax, itself acquired by Lloyds in 2008.

Esure’s debut comes five months after that of Direct Line, whose shares are trading 16.7 per cent above their offer price.

Deutsche Bank and J P Morgan Cazenove were joint global co-ordinators and joint bookrunners on esure’s sale, while Canaccord Genuity and Numis Securities were co-lead managers.