City's oldest broking firm to float for £6m

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The City's oldest stockbroker, with a history stretching back as long as the London Stock Exchange, is to float on AIM, the junior market.

The City's oldest stockbroker, with a history stretching back as long as the London Stock Exchange, is to float on AIM, the junior market.

Hichens, Harrison & Co has been in business in more or less its current form since at least 1803 and is being sold by its owner, the South African financial-services giant Sanlam.

The flotation is set to capitalise on the boom in mining sector flotations, where Hichens has been active as a corporate broker. The company is also well-known for its private client stockbroking. It is expected to float with a market capitalisation of about £6m.

The decision to seek a listing came after Adam Wilson,the managing director, held talks with Sanlam over a management buyout. Hichens has hired Jeremy Delmar-Morgan, the former chairman of Teather & Greenwood, to be non-executive chairman of the quoted company.

Hichens had turnover of about £3.5m last year, when Sanlam said its UK operations as a whole had moved into the black. Trading has continued to improve this year, and Hichens has been involved as broker to a series of high-profile natural resources companies - including White Nile, the controversial African mining venture chaired by Phil Edmonds, the former England cricketer.

The management owns about 35 per cent of the equity, and Sanlam will continue to hold 48 per cent. It is selling a little more than £1m of its stake to external investors as part of the float. Its shares are expected to begin trading this month.

Hichens can trace its history to 1803, shortly after the Stock Exchange was constitutionally formed. Unlike most brokers, it is not an amalgamation of firms.

Sanlam bought the business in 2002 for an undisclosed sum, believed to be at least double the £6m valuation put on Hichens.

Rise of the City gentlemen

Robert Hichens 1782-1865. Family wealth based on Cornish pilchard fishing. First evidence of his career as a London broker is a government stock certificate dated 22 July 1803 which bears his signature. Entered into partnership with his younger brother, William, in 1813.

Frederic Harrison 1799-1881. The son of a London architect, he joined R&W Hichens at the age of 18. As well as a partner in the firm, he also became a notable historian, philosopher, barrister, and, for 18 years, a member of the committee of the Stock Exchange

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