Deals

Chris Hughes is a Bloomberg Gadfly columnist covering deals. He previously worked for Reuters Breakingviews, as well as the Financial Times and the Independent newspaper.

Europe's equity capital markets bankers are making hay in some very unseasonable sunshine. This month is turning into a bumper January for secondary stock offerings in the region.

Smoothly Does It
Low stock volatility has created ideal conditions for share sales
Source: Bloomberg

Governments and investors have been offloading heaps of stock since returning from their holidays. The latest offering came on Friday, when Tom Barrack's investment firm, Colony Capital, disposed of its stake in Edenred, a provider of vouchers.

Happy New Year
The number of European secondary share sales in January is only two away from a 12-year high
Source: Bloomberg

That pushed the amount of stock sold in European secondary share offerings to $3.1 billion so far this year, the most for a January since 2014, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Two more deals would take the number of secondary offerings to a 12-year high for the month. Measured by value, we're within sight of the $4.5 billion of offerings seen in the first month of 2013.

Sellers' Market
The value of European secondary share sales has bounced back sharply from a weak January 2016
Sourced: Bloomberg

Buyers and sellers have good reason to meet. The global equity rally since the U.S. election caught many investors by surprise: sales of big blocks of stock give them a chance to get back into the market at a discount.

Edenred's shares were placed with investors for just 3 percent less than Thursday's closing price -- a narrow markdown, given the volume of stock shifted was about twice the typical daily average.

Sellers appear to have been sitting on their hands amid last year's political upheaval. That's left some pent-up supply. Small wonder that more deals have come out of Italy than any other country in Europe: sellers are capitalizing on surprisingly stable markets following the country's constitutional referendum in December.

Roman March
Italy has led a jump in secondary share sale deals in Europe this January
Source: Bloomberg

However, sellers won't have long to move. Political risk is looming, with elections in the Netherlands, France and Germany this year.

Total sales have been boosted by a handful of big government exits. France sold 4.1 percent of utility Engie SA, more than the 3.7 percent stake it had initially planned to offload. The Dutch government sold 14 percent of ASR Nederland NV. Both deals were done at discounts of less than 5 percent.

Can this last? Perhaps not. The equity rally has lost some momentum in recent days, which may depress buyer appetite. There may be little left from the backlog of pent-up supply.

But it wouldn’t take much more activity for this to become a record January in European secondary stock offerings.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Chris Hughes in London at chughes89@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Edward Evans at eevans3@bloomberg.net