Private Equity Perspectives — March 2013: the year of the IPO?

In the current market, private equity sponsors are increasingly looking at initial public offerings (IPOs) as a real exit option for their portfolio investments. Strong demand for equities as a result of growing investor confidence in the recovering US and European economies and a desire for private equity firms to realise heavily leveraged investments made just before the financial crisis have been the principal drivers for the wave of private-equity-led IPOs in 2013.

Rumours of the return of the private-equity-backed IPO exit first gained momentum during BC Partners’ partial exit from Foxtons last summer. Amid an upturn in fortunes in the UK housing market, the estate agency completed its highly anticipated flotation on the London Stock Exchange last September. Purchased by BC Partners in 2007 for £360m with £300m bank debt, Foxtons became a notable casualty of the financial crisis and the ensuing downturn in the property market, resulting in lenders Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Mizuho temporarily stepping in in a debt-for-equity swap after the private equity firm breached its banking covenants. Proceeds gained from the listing will allow Foxtons to fully repay its outstanding debts but it is understood that the float marks the beginning of BC Partners’ expected exit from the company. With the likes of Merlin Entertainments (backed by Blackstone and CVC), owner of Madame Tussauds and Legoland, and skiwear maker Moncler (backed by Carlyle and Eurazeo) concluding 2013 with their own respective listings in London and Milan, this trend of private-equity-backed floats is set to continue throughout 2014…

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