Unigestion to go private

Swiss alternative assets manager Unigestion is to delist from the main market of the SWX Swiss Exchange due to the lack of liquidity the listing offers its investors. Shares in the company have been thinly traded in recent years and the firm believes that the listing, which is costly and time consuming to maintain, does not offer any real advantages. Average daily trading volumes over the last six months have been as low as CHF30,000 (approximately €20,000) with trades only taking place of 50 per cent of days.

Founded in 1971 Unigestion has been quoted on the Swiss Stock Exchange since 1987. The directors and management already own 58 per cent of the shares and voting rights of the company and with the co-operation of institutional investors, including Baloise Insurance and HSBC, now control a 71 per cent majority. The offer price is CHF91 per share in cash, which values the company at around CHF216 million (€147 million).

The price represents a premium of 15 per cent above the average closing share price for February, 6 per cent above the six-month average and 7 per cent above the price at the end of last year. The formal offer documents are expected to be published this month and the delisting process should start at the end of April or beginning of May. Régis Martin, the company’s chief financial officer, said there would be no squeeze-out of minority shareholders.

Unigestion manages more than CHF4.5 billion (€3 billion) for a range of clients such as pension funds, insurance companies, banks, charitable trusts and families. It provides alternative asset management including hedge funds and private equity, as well as offering investment management alternatives in currency hedged bonds, high yield bonds and equities.

The firm manages four private equity fund-of-funds, in collaboration with Swiss bank Pictet, including one dedicated to secondaries as well as private equity portfolios on behalf of investors including Baloise Insurance and Nestlé. Last year Unigestion expanded its private equity team with the appointment of senior investment professionals in both its London and Geneva offices.

News of the planned delisting was accompanied by the group’s 2002 results, which show Unigestion generated a profit of CHF3.1 million, compared to a loss of CHF2.5 million in 2001.