Yell, Focus Wickes succumb to IPO uncertainty

The UK directories business and Duke Street's DIY chain have shelved plans to float after US accountancy scandals have further weakened the new issues market.

Yell, the UK directories business owned by Apax Partners and Hicks Muse Tate & Furst, has become the third company in the last seven days to pull its proposed IPO following investor unease in the public markets resulting from accountancy scandals at Xerox and WorldCom.

The US and UK private equity firms announced this morning that the listing, which was expected to value the company at between £1.8bn and £2.3bn, would no longer proceed as planned this week.

After a period of uncertainty over whether Yell would opt for a summer flotation only a year after it was acquired from British Telecom, the company said last month that it would proceed with a listing, setting an indicative price range of 270p to 345p.

Focus Wickes, the UK DIY retailer in which UK private equity firm Duke Street Capital holds a 55 per cent stake, has also fallen victim to the prevailing unease in the public markets. The UK’s second largest DIY chain said that adverse market conditions were responsible for the postponement, adding that no date had been set to reschedule the listing.

Last month, Focus Wickes gave an indicative price range for its shares of 230 to 290p, valuing the firm at between £950m to £1.15bn. The firm had scheduled its listing for the first week of July.

Italian fashion house Prada scrapped a E1bn IPO last Wednesday, leaving its UK rival Burberry as one of just a handful of companies that are still planning to proceed with a listing this year.

Homebase, the DIY chain owned by Permira, has been pencilled in for late summer, although the recent troubles in the equity markets would seem to reduce the likelihood of an IPO exit for Permira at that point.