Wendel in largest IPO of 2007

Bureau Veritas, the French certification and classification business, has floated on Euronext Paris right at the top of its offer price range at €37.75 per share.

This gave the company a market capitalization of €4.1bn, raising €1.24bn for private equity backers Wendel following the exercise of the overallotment option. Wendel retains a 63.6% stake, making it the largest private equity-backed IPO so far this year.

The IPO generated the Paris-based buyouts house a 46% IRR on its 2004 investment, with a return multiple of six since its 1995 investment. Wendel increased its shareholding in Bureau Veritas from 32% to 66% in one of the biggest deals in French private equity history in 2004, paying €645m as part of a €1.345 transaction.

The size of the float beat the previous private equity IPO leader Rexel, the electrical retailer, which raised €1bn in April, with a market capitalization of €4.18bn. Its private equity backers included Eurazeo, Clayton Dubilier & Rice, and Merrill Lynch Private Equity.

For Jean-Bernard Lafonta, chairman of Wendel’s executive board: “It is an important stage in the development of Bureau Veritas, which is perfectly in line with our strategy as a long-term investor. We are highly satisfied that the market has recognized this world leader. With the management, we will pursue the ambitious growth strategy we have set as a goal.”

Bureau Veritas reported sales 2006 of €1.85bn and a net profit of €154m last year. It is looking to achieve an operating profit of around €300m this year.