Center Parcs, the glass-encased holiday resorts group, is one of a slew of companies planning to float on the Alternative Investment Market in the next few weeks, taking advantage of renewed confidence in the City about prospects for businesses.
Center Parcs will be acquired by the brokers Collins Stewart for £300m before being immediately spun off on to the junior Aim market via a shares offer to major institutional investors. The company, which operates four holiday villages, including one at Longleat, the ancestral home of the Marquess of Bath, plans to seek a full stock market listing next year.
Collins Stewart, which is leading a consortium of fund managers, won the bidding war to snap up the holiday company. It will pay cash to Mid Ocean Partners, the venture capitalist which currently owns Center Parcs. Mid Ocean was founded by a number of former partners of DB Capital, the private-equity arm of Deutsche Bank.
Collins Stewart will tackle the float as it did the recent listing of Northumbrian Water, by paying cash for the business before floating it on Aim.
As with Northumbrian, the Center Parcs offer will be fully underwritten by Collins Stewart. The broker, which is fighting charges by a former employee that it engaged in insider dealing and biased research, has been successful in drumming up flotations and other work despite the general lack of corporate activity in the past three years.
Four more companies also plan to float on Aim in the coming weeks. They include the property developer City Lofts. The company, which works with the Conran design group, will be valued at about £50m.
Another is Vista, a doors manufacturer, which will be valued at about £14.6m when it joins Aim on 19 December. Alliance Pharmaceuticals and Marakand Minerals, an Uzbekistan mining company, will also list on Aim shortly.