Travelport in pole position in float queue

Stephen Dinneen
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ELPORT looks set to become the most expensive company to float on the stock exchange in two years.

It will be amongst the first in a slew of companies seeking an IPO in the coming months. The airline and hotel reservations firm, which operates in 160 countries, has plans for flotation in London and hopes to achieve a valuation of around £1.8bn.

That would make it the highest-valued stock-market debut since Mexican silver miner Fresnillo, which floated in May 2008. The float is being handled by investment banks UBS, Barclays Capital, Citigroup, Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank. The group has hired former chairman of Allied Irish Banks Dermot Gleeson as a non-executive director to assist.

The flotation is believed to be to pay down debt taken on by owner, private equity group Blackstone. The group bought Travelport in 2006 for $4.3bn (£2.6bn) and later merged it with rival Worldspan, acquired for $1.4bn.

A Travelport spokesman declined to comment on the company’s debt or the decrease in value since its purchase just three years ago.

Travelport runs the Galileo booking system, which is widely used by travel agents, airlines and hotels. In its most recent quarterly results it posted earnings of $93m on sales of $570m.

Any deal will be hotly anticipated by other high-profile names in the first stages of a stock market flotation. Matalan is mulling over embarking on a public listing worth in the region of £1.5bn after seeing strong results over Christmas.

The Priory hopes to float on the stock market for a price of around £1.3bn. Major shareholder Royal Bank of Scotland will hope to improve the rehab clinic's chances by wiping out nearly half of its billion pound debt in return for another 30 per cent of the company. New Look is set to float for an estimated £1.6bn. The group's private equity owners refinanced the business in 2008, leaving the retailer with upwards of £1bn of debt.

Also considering a public listing this year are Pets at Home, for around £800m; Legoland owners Merlin Entertainments; clothing retailer Supergroup; online grocer Ocado and furniture retailer DFS.

In a market starved of corporate activity, news that a host of big firms are considering IPOs will be a boon for some City advisers. UBS, Barclays Capital, Citigroup, Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank are all advising on the Travelport flotation but none were willing to comment last night.

Alan Jacobs will be busy working on an IPO for furniture retailer DFS for the second time. The former Schroders and Citigroup investment banker originally floated the company in 1993 before owner Lord Kirkham made the controversial decision to leave the public listing. This time Jacobs will handle the strategic review through his boutique investment bank Jacobs Capital. The former assistant director at Schroders and Citigroup graduated from Cambridge University.

He qualified as a lawyer with Slaughter and May before becoming an investment banker. He went on to form his own advisory and investment business, Jacobs Capital. Pets at Home's private equity owner Bridgepoint last year appointed investment bank Rothschild to advise on a possible sale. JP Morgan Cazenove will act as joint sponsor, joint book runner and joint global coordinator of an IPO. Supergroup appointed Seymour Pierce as advisers late last year. Solar Power Firm Engyco (see page 13) has appointed Numis Securities and Ambrian Partners. Late last year Matalan appointed Goldman Sachs and PricewaterhouseCoopers to advise it on a sale.