US indifference forces BICC to pull Andover flotation: Aborted sell-off echoes Unigate experience in America

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The Independent Online
BICC, the cables and construction group, has been forced to cancel the partial pounds 27.4m flotation of its US subsidiary, Andover Controls, on the Nasdaq national market system because of a smaller-than-expected level of interest.

This is the second time in the past two months that a British company has had to abandon plans for a flotation of its interests in the United States. BICC shares fell 8p to 390p on the news.

In May Unigate postponed the proposed pounds 150m flotation of its US Black Eyed Pea restaurant chain because of poor trading conditions and a lack of response from US investors.

Bankers said that while Wall Street was hitting new heights, American investors' appetite for new issues was mainly for high-tech stocks involved in the computer or biotechnology industries.

BICC, which is advised by PaineWebber in the US, announced its intention last May to raise pounds hrough an initial public offering of 3 million shares, or about 60 per cent of the equity, of Andover, which makes microcomputer-based building automation systems.

The company said yesterday that current stock market conditions in the US meant that the flotation would not have raised the amount of money it had expected.

The planned market capitalisation at an issue price of dollars 15 would have been dollars 75m, equivalent to 8.5 times operating earnings.

BICC has decided to concentrate on core cable and Balfour Beatty construction interests, divesting its technology businesses. BISS, a supplier of computer networking systems, was sold to management last Friday in a pounds 7.6m deal.

Tim Sharp, a company spokesman, said that BICC was disappointed not to have succeeded in getting the issue away but Andover was not a painful business to own.

In 1992 Andover made operating profits of pounds 5.8m on sales of pounds 42m and continued to trade in line with expectations when the flotation was broached in May.

Mr Sharp said that alternative ways of divesting Andover would now be considered.