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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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