Liberty Mutual pulls $1.2bn US IPO plan

 
City A.M. Reporter
LIBERTY Mutual Agency postponed indefinitely its planned initial public offering, quashing hopes that the planned $1.2bn flotation could give a needed jolt to the US IPO market.

The property and casualty insurer announced the delay on the day the offering, blaming a poor economy and volatile markets. It was unclear how either had gotten appreciably worse since Liberty Mutual filed to go public in May, and some analysts blamed the offering’s rich valuation instead.

It would have been the largest US IPO this year.

Liberty Mutual Agency had planned to sell 64.3m shares for $18 to $20 each. At the midpoint of that range, the business would have a price-to-tangible book value of 1.4.

By comparison, competitors Chubb and Travelers Companies are trading at multiples around 1.2 and 1.1, respectively, said Michael Paisan, a managing director at Stifel, Nicolaus & Co who specializes in insurance.

“Investors saw through it,” Paisan said.

Paisan added that average valuations for property and casualty insurers have been steady since Liberty Mutual Agency filed for an IPO on 10 May. He said the sector has been trading at a price-to-tangible book value of around 1.

“What they are trying to do is transfer the blame for this situation to the market,” said David Menlow, president of IPOfinancial.com. “There were probably some unrealistic valuations that were put on the company to start with.”

Liberty Mutual Agency is the 10th largest writer of property and casualty insurance in the United States. Its parent company, Liberty Mutual Group would have retained a greater than 80 per cent equity stake after the IPO.