Keep the equity issues coming ...
Will Asia's economic crisis knock eastern Europe off course? Will political disagreement stall privatization? Will the region's small companies flock to join the stock market? Rebecca Bream gauges the flow of new east European equity in 1998 and looks ahead to the year's biggest deals.
Until the end of October, 1997 had been a good year for equity in central and eastern Europe. Although new issues were fairly light on the ground, some of the largest companies in the region were privatized or floated. The second tranche of the Hungarian oil and gas company MOL was put on the market in May, followed by shares in Poland's Bank Handlowy and Hungary's pharmaceuticals com-pany Gedeon Richter in June. The Polish copper producer KGHM had an IPO in July, which turned out to be one of the few unsuccessful privatizations of the year. This flurry of market activity culminated in November with the largest-ever equity deal from eastern Europe, again in Hungary: the IPO of telecommunications operator Matav, which has so far raised over $1 billion.
"Matav set an important precedent for privatizations in the region," says Rory Scott, director of equity capital markets at ING Barings. A combination of strategic sale (to Ameritech and Deutsche Telekom in 1993, which led to an exhaustive restructuring programme) and public offering, the sale process has been likened to telecoms sell-offs in France, Spain and Italy.