MFI float flops amid market gloom

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The Independent Online
THE FLOTATION of MFI, the furniture group, has flopped, with less than 50 per cent of the public offering taken up by the official deadline of 10am yesterday.

MFI's adviser, County NatWest, is keeping the lists open for another 24 hours in the hope that more applications for the pounds 158m public offer will trickle in.

The unwanted shares will go to the sub-underwriters. MFI now faces the possibility that its shares will fall below the 115p offer price when dealings begin on Friday.

David Barclay of County NatWest said the final count had not yet been made, adding: 'I can tell you it was undersubscribed, but not mega-undersubscribed. It's neither very near nought nor very near 100 per cent. Which side of 50 per cent it will fall I can't say.'

Last week MFI successfully placed 410 million shares with institutions and underwrote the public offer, but only by setting the price lower than the 135-145p range it targeted a month ago.

The plunge in the stock market over the past two months has played havoc with several flotations announced in the aftermath of the election in April.

The Telegraph, publisher of the Daily Telegraph, flopped last month with only 23 per cent of the public offer taken up. Anglian Group, the double glazing company, later managed only a 5 per cent take-up.

The failure of the float of MFI, which is well regarded in the City, casts doubt on the success of future share issues. These include a pounds 3bn issue by the Wellcome pharmaceuticals group and the offer of 29 million shares in Taunton Cider, which closes on Wednesday.

The investment group 3i last month postponed its pounds 1bn flotation until next year because of adverse market conditions. GPA, the aircraft leasing group, abandoned its dollars 1bn share issue.

Mr Barclay said: 'The message is the retail investor is not there at the moment regardless of price. People with spare cash use it to reduce indebtedness.

'People are treating shares as a form of expenditure rather than a form of saving,' he said.