AIM's 900th company makes confident debut

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The Independent Online

Wichford, an Isle of Man property investment company, yesterday became the 900th company to trade on London's junior AIM market.

Wichford, an Isle of Man property investment company, yesterday became the 900th company to trade on London's junior AIM market.

The company, which specialises in office developments for central government bodies, is the 189th company to join the AIM this year. Some £2.5bn has been raised on the market in 2004 and Wichford yesterday raised £30m by placing 20 million shares at 150p.

Shares in Wichford rose 7 per cent from their listing price to close at 160.5p. J O Hambro Capital Management and Richard Britten-Long, who run the property management division of the group, together own 23 per cent of the newly listed group.

The group, which has assets of about £120m, aims to capitalise on the Government's drive to move thousands of civil service posts from London. It plans to spend up to £300m on properties throughout the UK, excluding London, each priced at between £3m and £15m to house government office workers.

The Lyons review recommended that 20,000 public sector office jobs be relocated outside the capital over the next seven years. Wichford believes this will create demand for around 2 million square feet of office space outside London.

A number of large institutional investors, such as Credit Suisse First Boston, Framlington and Morley, have taken part in the placing. Investors were particularly attracted to the dividend potential for the company, which it says will yield a generous 6 per cent.

The company said it wanted to list on the junior market to give it easier access to equity and debt financing opportunities, which will help it grow its property portfolio.

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