Inside Track: TSB and Saga lead the way in a retail investor return

David Hellier
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SO AT last there’s some cheer for the retail investor, whose presence in the new issues market has recently been all but forgotten by those in charge of floating companies on the London market.

Much of the euphoria surrounding the retail stampede for shares in Royal Mail, which was supposed to herald a new beginning for the little person in the market, had practically fizzled out altogether until this week.

Yesterday Lloyds Bank announced that its partial flotation of TSB will involve a retail element, albeit one accessible through intermediaries.

That’s an encouraging sign, especially since recent sell-downs of the government’s stake in Lloyds have been reserved totally for the institutional investor.

The TSB float follows news of Saga’s not entirely unexpected decision to market a big portion of its issue to retail investors, both customers and non customers, as well as staff.

I’m hearing that a main market listing of P2P, a peer to peer lender, is likely to include a retail element, which will be handled by Scott Harris, the firm that acted on the Pets at Home flotation earlier this year. Details are expected next week.

But in line with many of the recent issues, Fat Face, the retailer, has decided against retail, blaming complexity and cost for its decision.

It’s true that not all issues suit the retail investor but the trend before Saga and TSB had become somewhat dispiriting.

Hopefully a strong interest in some of the upcoming retail friendly issues will remind those bankers who are so negative on the retail option that it really warrants considering.

Once upon a time practitioners used to rely on verbal commitments rather than rulebooks to do their business.

Sadly this is no longer always believed to be the case, but there was still an uproar when the US giant Kraft closed a factory in Somerdale just days after taking over Cadbury, even though it earlier pledged to keep it open.

Regulators are currently keeping an eagle eye on statements from Pfizer about its commitment to the UK life sciences sector following its declaration of interest in bidding for AstraZeneca, which is in the process of creating a new research park in Cambridge.

Lazard, an adviser to Kraft, was criticised for its role in making the ultimately worthless commitment about Somerdale in an official statement.

JP Morgan and Bank of America Merrill Lynch, who are both advising Pfizer, will need to be especially careful they don’t provide public commitments to City investors that their client cannot keep.

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