Buyout firms pull float of vacuum firm Edwards due to market uncertainties

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Edwards group, which supplies vacuum technology to a range of electronics and industrial groups, has pulled its float at the 11th hour, blaming uncertainty in the markets.

The UK company had planned to list on the London Stock Exchange, but yesterday its private equity owners revealed they were to "postpone" the initial public offering.

This will come as a blow to backers CCMP Capital and Unitas, which had shelved a plan to sell off the business in December in favour of a flotation.

The shares were due to be priced today after the company finished its investor road show earlier this week.

The statement said there had been strong interest from institutional investors. Yet, sources close to the process said CCMP and Unitas had decided to postpone the offer after potential investors railed against the listing price. The companies had hoped to raise up to £375m from the float, valuing the whole company at £1.5bn. This comes shortly after Topaz Energy and Marine pulled its $500m (£305m) float also citing market uncertainty.

CCMP and Unitas bought into the company in 2007 and own a combined stake of 90 per cent of the group. One market observer said the sale faltered over some "distrust" over private equity bringing companies to market. Last year buyout firms were forced to pull their planned flotations of retailers New Look, Travelport and Merlin Entertainments.

Edwards, which is based in Crawley, works closely with the world's biggest chipmakers. It is the leading supplier of vacuum pumps used in industrial processes. As well as semiconductor groups it supplies industries including LED, flat panel display, solar, pharmaceutical and chemical.

Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan and UBS were brought in to bring the company to market.

Matthew Taylor and David Smith, the former bosses of JCB and Jaguar Land Rover, had been brought in last year to sell the company. Mr Taylor, the group's chief executive, said after the trade sale collapsed that the "best thing is that we go for an IPO", adding that it was the "preferred endgame".

The company boosted revenues 73 per cent to £641m in 2010 over the previous year. Operating profits swung from a £30.4m loss to a £76m profit.

The group was set up in 1919 by FD Edwards and his wife in Camberwell, south London, with just £20. It now has a total of 3,000 staff in 60 countries and outside the UK its products are manufactured in South Korea, the Czech Republic, China and Japan.

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