Markets force WPP to shelve flotation

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The Independent Online
WPP, the advertising group, has become the latest company in recent weeks to shelve a stock market flotation after a number of others, including British Printing Corporation and cable companies TeleWest and General Cable, were stalled by tumbling securities markets, writes Neil Thapar.

The dollars 400m ( pounds 260m) flotation of up to half of WPP's equity in three market research companies was supposed to take place by the end of this month. But both SG Warburg and Goldman Sachs, brought in by WPP for the flotation, are thought to have advised strongly against the listing either in the United States or Britain.

The combined market research business, codenamed Triad, was expected to raise funds to cut WPP's pounds 360m debt.

But since the international equity markets are in turmoil the plans have been delayed until at least the autumn.

WPP, which holds its annual shareholders' meeting tomorrow, said: 'We are continuing to review the float as a result of the volatility in the equity markets on both sides of the Atlantic.'

The three businesses earmarked for the listing are Millward Brown, Research International and MRB Group, which made combined profits of dollars 29m on turnover of about dollars 320m last year.

With WPP's bankers free to off-load up to 200 million WPP shares from September, there is growing concern that the delay could cause further uncertainty about the company's share price. The banks received the shares as part of a debt-for- equity swap to repair WPP's ravaged balance sheet two years ago.

WPP shares dropped 4p to 102p on Friday.