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Value of European listings hits 10-year average

March 11, 2014

LONDON (AP) — In another sign that Europe’s economy is turning the corner, a leading ratings agency found Tuesday that the value of new stock market listings more than tripled in 2013.

Standard & Poor’s said 13 billion euros ($16.6 billion) worth of new equity was floated last year, up from around 4 billion euros the year before. The jump took the value of initial public offerings, or IPOs, up to the average over the past ten years — a period that has seen wild swings from the heady days before the global financial crisis of 2008 to the doldrums thereafter. And the agency expects the revival to continue this year, barring any economic or market shocks.

S&P credited the advance on buoyant equity markets, pent-up demand from private equity owners and optimism over the European economy’s prospects.

Over the past few years, stock market listings in Europe have suffered in the wake of the global financial crisis and the ensuing debt problems that afflicted many countries that use the euro as their currency. A risk-averse approach dominated sentiment across corporate boardrooms.

Now that fears of a euro breakup have been dramatically reduced and economic growth has resumed across the 18-country eurozone, firms are beginning to look at fresh ways to raise money to capitalize on growth prospects. The improved economic backdrop is evident in the performance of stock markets across the region, which makes valuations more attractive for those looking to raise money to invest in the business or to cash out.

S&P found that business services companies and consumer-facing firms in sectors such as retail and leisure have so far been leading the revival in initial public offerings, or IPOs.

It pointed out that private equity firms are at the forefront of the revival in listings as they look for ways to exit their investments. An example includes the London IPO of amusement park operator Merlin Entertainment, which came to market as Blackstone and CVC Capital Partners reduced their stakes.

S&P said a variety of companies may be looking to tap markets in the period ahead, including commercial and professional services, health care, information technology, consumer staples, and cable.

Despite the advance, the value of IPOs was still way down on 2007′s 10-year peak of 36 billion euros. That buzz of activity, however, was likely a sign of trouble ahead. By 2008, the world economy was facing one of its worst financial crises in decades, largely because of excessive risk-taking in financial markets, providing the backdrop to the slump in activity among corporations that has also seen a slide in mergers and acquisitions.

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