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Capital Markets

Nervous equity investors shun IPOs

The revival in the market in late 2009 seemed a sign of capital markets returning to normal after the financial market crisis and economic downturn; well-supported new listings pointed to recovery. But even as the list of prospective IPOs grows and Agricultural Bank of China completes its record deal, the market is shutting down again. Peter Lee reports.

THE DIVIDE BETWEEN financial market optimists and pessimists is at its most stark in the IPO business. Almost every day it seems that a new vendor hoping to cash in, or a company hoping to fund new investment or raise capital by spinning off a subsidiary, announces the intention to list debut stock. Deals in the IPO pipeline look very impressive. In July, executives from GM appeared to be warming the markets up for an IPO later this year of the US car company that entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the summer of 2009. Lazard is advising the US government, which holds a majority stake in the auto-maker.

The private equity funds that acquired HCA, the largest private hospital operator in the US, in a $32 billion buyout at the height of the leveraged loan madness in 2006, hope to re-float shares later this year in a $4.6 billion IPO. Other large IPOs of sponsor-owned companies are now planned for audience measurement company Nielsen, whose investors hope to raise $1.75 billion; for Toys ‘R’ Us, whose owners hope to raise $800 million; and for NXP Semiconductors, which has filed for a $1.15 billion offering.

In Italy, the management of Enel has reaffirmed the intention to proceed with the €4 billion IPO of its Green Power division in the final quarter of 2010.

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