Float set to value Benfield at £650m

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The Independent Online

The stock market flotation of Benfield, the reinsurance group built up by the late Matthew Harding, could be priced at the top end of expectations after a successful roadshow to potential investors, it emerged last night. It is thought the float could be priced at around 250-260p per share, valuing the company at around £650-£660m.

The new issue, which is the biggest UK float since William Hill last year, is due to be priced on Friday, though there was speculation last night that the book had closed early and the shares could be priced today. The shares are due to start trading next Wednesday.

The company declined to comment yesterday on the progress of its listing.

Though stock markets are still weak, Benfield has benefited from the surge in reinsurance rates in the past two years, partly due to the aftermath of the 11 September terrorist attacks. Benfield was originally aiming to raise £100m from its listing but may choose to sell more shares as demand appears to be strong.

Grahame Chilton, chief executive of Benfield, has a 12.4 per cent stake in Benfield, which would be worth £81m if the shares are priced at the top end of the range. Other shareholders set for paper windfalls include co-founder Mike Rees, who also holds 12.4 per cent, and the chairman John Coldman, with 9 per cent.