Yell decides go slow for IPO

Plans for an early listing of the UK telephone directory business have been put on hold in the wake of renewed caution in the IPO markets.

Yell Group, the BT directories business acquired by Hicks, Muse and Apax Partners last year, is said to have shelved plans for a Q2 or 3 listing of the firm, according to a Bloomberg report.

The firm, which is looking for a £3bn market valuation, is concerned that the current difficulties facing prospective market entrants will effect the firm’s valuation. Yell's advisers, Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs, have postponed meetings with other banks that were to set the terms for the IPO.

Punch Taverns, Britain's largest pub owner, Spectel, an Irish maker of equipment for conference calls, and LM Glasfiber, a Danish company that makes wind turbines, have all cancelled imminent listings in the past fortnight. HMV in the UK and Swedish firm Alfa Laval completed their own IPOs in the last seven days, but have had to drop their launch prices and, in HMV's case, still seen a rapid decline in its share price.

Meanwhile, Qwest Communications, the US firm that is looking to sell its QwestDex directory business has said that it would require the winning bidder for its yellow pages division to provide $1bn of the asking price in advance of the deal being completed.

The US firm is seeking the down payment due to concerns that it might not be able to complete the estimated $10bn sale of its QwestDex unit by the end of 2002, putting Qwest in jeopardy of breaching terms on a $3.39bn loan.

The company, whose debt is reportedly running at $26.6bn, borrowed $4bn from banks earlier this year because it was not able to secure loans from money-market investors.

At least two private equity consortia are known to be interested in bidding for QuestDex. Madison Dearborn Partners and Carlyle Group are leading one group, with KKR and Thomas Lee leading a group of seven private-equity firms in the second.