Ben Aris in Moscow -
The drought has been long and dry for investment bankers, but a window to get out long-delayed IPOs has opened and companies from across Central and Eastern Europe are selling shares to investors.
Warsaw Stock Exchange (WSE) has been host to the second most IPOs in Europe in the last quarter with 10 listings worth an average of €15m, trailing only the ever popular equity powerhouse, the London Stock Exchange (LSE).
The WSE's largest deal of the year is set to be from Poland's state railway operator PKP, which is selling just under 50% of its cargo unit in an IPO expected to be worth about PLN1.6bn ($520m). The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said it wants to take a stake of up to 7.5% in the EU's second-biggest freight company.
And the WSE won a big feather with the first listing of a Chinese company on October 9, Peixin International Group, a manufacturer of paper products like sanitary napkins and diapers. The Netherlands-registered company sold PLN16m ($5m) worth of shares and the stock soared by over 20% during its first day of trading.
Still, it has not all been plain sailing, as the waters remain fairly choppy. Amsterdam-based real estate investment trust Meridian Properties dropped its plans to carry out a €170m IPO on the WSE at the start of October, citing unfavourable market conditions as the reason behind the decision, although commentators said investors didn't like the company's plan to use the proceeds to buy out private equity funds that own the company.
There are also plans for IPOs in Russia, Romania and Kazakhstan that could come off before the end of the year. The reason for the activity is the increasingly apparent economic recovery from the 2008 crisis. "In the wake of the global recovery, a broad-based recovery has commenced in the euro zone. In the US improvement has become visible after the 'soft patch' at the beginning of the year, but we only expect a clear and sustainable acceleration in growth in 2014," Erste Bank said in its fourth-quarter strategy paper released last week.
Erste goes on to say that improving sentiment and a healthy demand on labour markets is also bolstering confidence and should lead to rising investment and demand for equity.
The Bucharest Stock Exchange (BSE) hosted the IPO of state nuclear company Nuclearelectrica in September, with the company selling 10% of its shares through an IPO for roughly RON282m (€63m). It is set to hold two more IPOs before the end of the year: Romanian state-owned gas producer Romgaz is preparing a dual listing on the BSE and LSE to raise €600m, while construction materials producer Adeplast is hoping to get the first private placement away since 2008. "The pipeline for 2014 looks encouraging, but largely depends on the success of the Romgaz and Adeplast IPOs," PwC Romania's director of capital markets Sergiu Gherasim told Romania Insider in an interview.
But most of the activity is expected to be on the Moscow Exchange (MosEx), which remains by far the largest and most liquid market in the region.
On October 8, the e-payment system Qiwi raised $287.5m with a secondary public offering (SPO) on Nasdaq, proving there is appetite for Russian stocks. Qiwi's investors sold 9.427m shares at $30.5 per share. The success of the offering was built on the 128% gain in the shares' value since the company IPO'd on Nasdaq earlier this year in May. Likewise, phone operator Megafon's stock has risen 82% since it listed last November in Moscow.
Nomos Bank also held meetings with investors to discuss a possible SPO that will place 21.8m shares on Micex, or 19.6% of the mid-sized bank's capital, with the pricing to be announced shortly. However, this one will be a hard sell, as investors that bought into the bank's $700m IPO in 2011 are still smarting after the owners sold the bank to Otkritie Financial Company after about a year, which started the process of taking the company private again, incurring substantial loses for those that bought and held.
Even more exciting is the possible IPO of another bank, Tinkoff Credit Systems (TCS), which in October announced plans to raise $870m with an IPO in London in the near future.
TCS is a beast of the new economy and has no branches, but sells credit cards over the internet and now offers online banking services. The lack of bricks and mortar keeps costs very low and has allowed the bank to double in size a year, making it the third biggest issuer of cards in Russia. "TCS's model of issuing credit cards and funding it 50/50 with deposits and bonds has created a success story in terms of rapid business growth. Having accounted for 3% of Russia's credit cards market in 2009, the bank has skyrocketed with 100% [compound average growth rate] over the past three years (Russia's credit card market posted 60% CAGR over the same period) and is now surpassed by only Sberbank and Russian Standard bank in terms of card volumes," Uralsib said in a recent note.
Controlled by serial entrepreneur Oleg Tinkov, who made his first fortune in beer, the roadshow reportedly starts on October 14 and pricing is due on October 25.
The Russian state has also floated plans to list several large companies as part of its privatisation programme, of which diamond monopolist Alrosa now looks the closest to happening. The company announced it will sell a 16% stake Moscow to raise $1.3bn and set the price range for its forthcoming IPO at RUB35-RUB38 rubles on October 14.
"This is actually a pretty big deal," says Quinn Martin, CEO of Frontier. "A year ago there weren't any Moscow IPOs at all, then in February the Moscow Exchange raised $500m in Moscow only, now seven months later Alrosa is raising $1.3b in Moscow only. Combined with all the reforms at the exchange to bring the market infrastructure into line with global standards. This is a big step towards the goal of moving the equity market back to Moscow."
However, it is the privately owned e-commerce and retail sector that will attract the most interest. Russia's answer to Hamley's, Detsky Mir (Children's World), said on October 10 it is hoping to raise $500m in an IPO on the LSE, without specifying the size of the stake it may offer investors. Toys are a fast growing sector and in 2012 Russia overtook Germany to become the largest toy market in Europe worth about $11.3bn, according to market research agencies. Detsky Mir is the leading Russian retail network in the children's goods market, and currently has a market share of 7-8%, which it plans to expand to 20-15% by 2018. Revenues increased in 2012 by 21% to RUB27bn ($870m).
If all these IPOs are successful, then more will quickly rush to tap a market that for almost five years has seen little activity. The list of candidates from Russia alone is very long and worth well over $50bn.
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