German firm seeks London listing

A LARGE German company has rejected a flotation in its own country in favour of a listing on the London Stock Exchange. Tarkett, a manufacturer of hard floorings, is seeking a London listing that is expected to value the company at more than £400m.

Lars Wisen, Tarkett's president and chief executive officer, said he preferred London because it was the most important European centre for raising capital. The float is expected by the autumn.

It is very rare for foreign companies to seek a listing in London instead of in their domestic markets. However, several German companies have joint listings, including BASF, Daimler-Benz and Lufthansa.

Tarkett was formerly part of the Swedish paper and wood pulp giant Stora and was sold last year to a consortium backed by Goldman Sachs, Standard Chartered Bank and Westdeutsche Landesbank for £285m.

The consortium holds 88 per cent of Tarkett, with the company's top management owning just under 9 per cent. Mr Wisen said the consortium would maintain a substantial interest after the float.

The timing of any listing would remain crucial, he said, although it would be "by the third quarter of this year, at the latest".

The company has 11 production sites in Sweden, Ireland, North America and in Germany. Eighty per cent of its floor products are fitted into residential developments, the remainder goes to commercial properties.

It is number two in the world behind America's Armstrong World Industries, which has 50 per cent of the US market, where Tarkett has 25 per cent. But Tarkett is the lead player in Europe, particularly in the former communist countries, accounting for 40 per cent of the flooring market in Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

The group is also looking to Russia, where about 10 million square metres of concrete flooring needs covering.