IPO by U.K. buyout firm an ocean apart

December 10, 2008

It’s enough to make Leon Black, Henry Kravis and Stephen Schwarzman jealous.

UK-based buyout firm Resolution, founded by entrepreneur Clive Cowdery, has not only launched a rare IPO – it raised £600 billion ($889 million) last week- but the deal enjoyed a 15 percent “pop” in its trading debut on the London Stock Exchange Wednesday.

The buyout fund will target U.K. insurance and asset management companies in deals in the range of £3 to 5 billion. And that may be part of why the IPO did well: The U.K. insurance sector has underperformed the market with companies contending with lower valuations.

The deal was only the fifteenth IPO to list in London this year, where new issues in 2008 have raised only $8.9 billion, down 78 percent this year, according to Thomson Reuters data, and the fourth largest. The U.S. market for IPOs is down by about the same for the year.

The deal’s success came in stark contrast to the cold shoulder the IPO market in the U.S. has given financial companies, including private equity firms.

Apollo Management, which used the private placement market in August 2007 to begin trading stocks, filed to transfer its shares to the New York Stock Exchange in April, while Kohlberg Kravis Roberts has postponed its complicated plan to use the Amsterdam-based listing of a subsidiary to list on the NYSE.

But then again, with the performance of rival Blackstone Group – its shares are down 70 percent so far this year, who can blame investors for sitting on the sidelines? And it’s been a brutal year for private equity firms with little improvement in sight.

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