Airline Wizz Air leads charge of pre-election IPOs

Experts predicted a flurry of pre-election initial public offerings

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Flotation fever gripped the City yesterday as the budget airline Wizz Air dusted off its plans to lead a host of companies looking to join the London Stock Exchange.

Experts predicted a flurry of pre-election initial public offerings, with the low-cost carrier being joined by the PVC windows maker Eurocell and contractor Lakehouse in revealing plans to go public.

Those choosing to do so may be able to take advantage of rising stock markets, with the FTSE 100 close to its 1999 all-time high.

The blue-chip index reached a five-month high this week on rising oil prices and hopes that Greece will not leave the eurozone, although it fell 11.78 points to 6,860.02 yesterday.

Richard Buxton, the head of UK Equities at Old Mutual Global Investors, said: “Any corporate financier is going to try to go sooner rather than later as the market is holding up and uncertainty can only increase the closer we get to [the 7 May election]. If you haven’t gone in February or March before early Easter, it is unlikely you’re going between Easter and the election.”

When it pulled its flotation last year Wizz Air blamed “market volatility in the airline  sector”, but yesterday it said it planned to raise €150m (£113m) from new investors before the end of March. The Hungarian company flies to 106 destinations on 350 routes.

Its chief executive, Jozsef Varadi, said the company provides “an attractive opportunity to invest in the expected growth in the central and eastern European air-travel markets”, adding that “deregulation, above-average GDP growth, a growing middle class and supportive migration trends” are likely to drive more air travel.

Lakehouse and the private equity-backed Eurocell said they also planed to list in London, with the latter appointing Bob Lawson as its new chairman. Mr Lawson, who also chairs Barratt Developments and Genus, said: “I have been very impressed by the quality of Eurocell’s business and management team.”

Elsewhere, shares in the tool-hire group HSS fell as low as 198p on debut before recovering to 210p. Its flotation was priced at the bottom of its 210p-262p range, valuing the business at £325m.

Chris White, the head of UK equities at Premier Asset Management, said: “The IPO market feels tired, but while markets remain buoyant companies that want to float will try to take advantage of investor confidence.”