Investors scramble for a share as WANdisco float a big success

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WANdisco became the first Yorkshire company to float on the London Stock Exchange in two years this morning, in an IPO that was more than three times over-subscribed.

Chairman and chief executive David Richards hailed the float –which raised £15m and values the fast-growing software company at £37m – as a massive success story for Sheffield and the wider Yorkshire business community.

“The success of the IPO vindicates our decision to move to Sheffield. It has fuelled our growth,” he said.

“There were a lot of raised eyebrows when we moved with people saying: ‘A software company based in Sheffield? Don’t they just make steel?’ ”

“But the move meant we were able to build better products and make them faster. There is an exceptionally good talent pool in Sheffield. Investors like the fact that this is a Yorkshire technology success story,” he added.

WANdisco, which moved its European centre from London to Sheffield three years ago, also has an office in California.

At a time when many IPOs are being pulled and Facebook’s much hailed float in the US has been rocky, WANdisco’s achievement was hailed by the Deputy Prime Minister.

Nick Clegg, MP for Sheffield Hallam, said: “I’m delighted that WANdisco are moving forward with their plans to expand. It is a real statement of confidence and I’m sure the flotation will ultimately lead to the creation of new jobs.

“As a local MP, I’m particularly proud that this innovative and fast growing Sheffield-based company continues to go from strength to strength.”

WANdisco’s float attracted a number of high profile, blue chip investors including Legal & General, Fidelity, Artemis, BlackRock, Cazenove, Standard Life and Jupiter.

Much of WANdisco’s appeal is that nearly 80 per cent of its sales come from the US, which is far more insulated against the recession than the UK and Continental Europe.

The company will use the cash to boost its sales teams in the US, Europe and Asia and fund further growth. It plans to open an office in Chengdu in China.

“China is a huge market and we’re keen to open up in Chengdu, which is a twin city of Sheffield. Chengdu is our Chinese equivalent with a vast industrial sector,” said Mr Richards.

The company currently has around 200 customers, which it believes is a small proportion of the total number of companies using its kind of software.

Its blue chip clients include Wal-Mart/Asda, Aviva, AT&T, Barclays, Hewlett Packard, Honda, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Motorola and Nokia.

“We’re a really good technology story and there aren’t many good technology companies coming to the market from the UK. We’ve got some very high profile customers, but we’ve only just scratched the surface,” said Mr Richards.

WANdisco is best known for its Subversion system, which is aimed at organisations that develop commercial software or administrative packages.

Mr Richards and the four other founders of WANdisco netted £1m from this morning’s float, but this money will be immediately ploughed back into the business.

DLA Piper’s corporate team in Sheffield advised on the transaction. The team was led by partner Jon Kenworthy and legal director Rob McKie.

Mr Kenworthy said: “WANdisco is a leader in an exciting group of companies which has proved that open source software is a sound basis for an exciting, growing and cash generative business.

“To have raised funds in what is an extremely difficult market is testament to the quality of WANdisco’s business and we wish them every success in the next stage of their journey.”

The company’s name is an abbreviation of Wide Area Network Distributed Computing.

The last major Yorkshire IPO was skin repair company Tissue Regenix in June 2010.

Analyst Eric Burns at WH Ireland in Leeds said: “With wider market conditions remaining difficult due to the well-publicised macro-economic issues, the successful IPO of WANdisco proves there is still appetite for the right story.

“Whilst Sheffield’s heritage might have its roots in the steel industry it seems to have re-invented itself as the SiliDon Valley with a clutch of high tech businesses located there such as Plusnet, Quidco, ZOO Digital and Sumo.”

WANdisco said its technology represents a significant departure from the ‘master-slave’ architectures employed by other data replication solutions.