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Equities: Stocking up on Warsaw

When the stock exchange goes on sale in November, investors will have a chance to buy into a company that has been a crucial force in the expansion of Poland’s equity market. But will its efforts to kick-start the country’s lacklustre corporate bond market meet with the same success? Lucy Fitzgeorge-Parker reports.

WITH A HIGH-PROFILE IPO to get away this autumn many managers might by now be sporting well-bitten fingernails, as the roll call of failed and pulled listings gets longer by the day. But Aleksandr Grad, the treasury minister responsible for the forthcoming sale of the Warsaw Stock Exchange, is unperturbed by the prospect of coming to market in testing conditions. As he points out, the Polish government managed to push through the Z8.1 billion ($2.5 billion) privatization of the country’s biggest insurer, PZU, in the teeth of the market turmoil in May. "When the Greek crisis happened we were in the midst of bookbuilding for PZU, but not a single investor withdrew," he says. "All the preliminary subscribers went through with the transaction."

Indeed, far from abandoning the deal, investors took part in unprecedented numbers – the biggest IPO in Europe since 2007 was nine times oversubscribed and PZU’s share price rose by 15% straight after pricing. Even the subsequent sale of 52% of Tauron Polska Energia, a slightly disappointing affair by Polish standards, was under the circumstances more than respectable. The country’s second-largest energy supplier did price near the bottom of its range and its shares slid further on opening – a first in the current wave of Polish privatizations – but it succeeded in raising Z4.21

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