Belgium postal float bodes well for UK mail IPO

Michael Bow
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BELGIUM’S national post service yesterday priced its forthcoming float at €14.50 (£12.40) a share, in a closely watched initial public offering ahead of the UK’s Royal Mail float next year.

Bpost, which is 50.1 per cent owned by the government, saw minority owner CVC Capital Partners sell its stake for €812m.

The initial offering, which was given an indicative range of €12.50 to €15, sold at €14.50, giving the postal company a market cap of €2.9bn. Shares will trade on the NYSE Euronext in Brussels from next week.

Chief executive Johnny Thijs said he was “satisfied” with the sale, adding it was a milestone in the company’s 300 year old history.

London-based CVC, one of Europe’s biggest private equity investors, took a minority stake just shy of 50 per cent in bpost in 2005.

It appointed a host of banks, including JP Morgan, Nomura, BNP Paribas Fortis as joint global co-ordinators, to help handle the offering earlier this year.

Yesterday’s sale leaves it with a stake of around 17 per cent if all shares on offer are taken.

Of the share capital on offer, retail investors in Belgium hoovered up about 21 per cent.

The bpost float comes ahead of UK plans to privatise its own national postal service Royal Mail, which is expected to float on the London Stock Exchange next year.

Ministers at the UK Department of Business, Innovation and Skills appointed Goldman Sachs and UBS to lead the float of the company last month, with a price tag expected to be around £2bn to £3bn.

However, proposals to privatise the UK postal service have been met with fiercer reaction from unions in the UK, who are threatening forms of industrial action to oppose the plan. A High Court hearing is due to decide on the legality of the plans next week