There are an incredible 23 different investment banks providing advice to Glencore on its bumper London/Hong Kong flotation and yet, according to those close to the discussions, the proceedings are being led by only one man, Glencore’s 54 year-old chief executive Ivan Glasenberg.
Maybe it’s precisely because there are so many banks that none in particular have stood out.
“There are too many voices and there’s no dominant bank,” one banker told me yesterday.
Equity capital market bankers tend to be, all other things being equal, less high profile than their colleagues working down the corridors in mergers and acquisitions (M&A).
M&A banking at its most dramatic (think Andrew Regan’s unsuccessful attempt to take over the Co-operative movement in the 1990s) means cloak and dagger, intrigue and brown paper envelopes containing secret documents that provide the recipient with knock-out information about a rival. Those who engage in this field must be familiar, if not fluent, with some rough and tumble tactics.
Bankers working on IPOs, especially as large as this one, need to do their due diligence but there is obviously less adversarialism and therefore the characters involved tend to be less combative, more involved with the selling of a story.
The most high profile banker on the Glencore roster is Citi’s David Wormsley, an M&A banker but perhaps best known nowadays for his appearance in court defending himself successfully against Guy Hands. It was alleged that Wormsley, or The Worm as he is known inside the Square Mile, gave misleading advice on Terra Firma’s ultimately disastrous acqusition of EMI.
Wormsley came out on top in that encounter and this is his first big deal since then. But anybody expecting him to have taken a dominant role in the Glencore issue will be disappointed. “He’s not been a dominant force,” says one adviser close to the transaction.
There were some who doubted Glasenberg’s desire to subject himself to the glare of the public markets. But the talk is that it is Glasenberg that has so far played a blinder. In particular his passionate address to investors last week, in which he pledged not to sell any shares, has helped stoke up demand.
If Glencore succeeds it will not only be a big boost for London markets but it will be a huge personal achievement for Glasenberg. Helped by 23 investment banks, of course.