Osborne Clarke leads the way in 2001’s first technology IPO

Osborne Clarke has pulled off its first technology initial public offering (IPO) on the main London stock market this year, in what is believed to be the first new listing by an IT company of 2001.

The firm, led by corporate partners Bruce Roxburgh and Tim Birt, advised long-term client Marlborough Sterling on its £76m IPO, which gave the company a market capitalisation of £248.5m.

The deal included a rule 144a offering into the US, which was handled by New York firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton through its London office. The Cleary Gottlieb team was led by partner Ashar Qureshi.

Osborne Clarke has acted for Cheltenham-based Marlborough Sterling since July 1996, when Roxburgh was introduced to the company by a local accountant. On the IPO the firm called upon a team of 30 lawyers spread across the London and Bristol offices.

Roxburgh says: “We always knew that we could resource it, but we were very pleased that the company decided to keep up its relationship with us. They’ve used us for most of their legal work, although they don’t use us exclusively.”

As well as Roxburgh and Birt, corporate partner Simon Fielder and employment partner Mark Womersley were heavily involved. Womersley had a big role because around 30 per cent of the shares were in share schemes held by the employees. That meant the employees had to be informed on the IPO much earlier on in the process than normal.

Womersley says: “What was different about the options is that we had an issue because of the number of shares under option and the number of people involved. Normally an IPO proceeds on a very confidential basis, and if handling a relatively small number of options, then it’s easy. We had to address the option holders early on a confidential basis.”

Marlborough Sterling has gone up in value from £10m to £250m in five years, and Osborne Clarke has advised it through three investments from venture capitalist 3i.

This deal covered four other jurisdictions in which the company had local subsidiaries – South Africa, Canada, Ireland and the Isle of Man.