Moelis Said to Plan IPO Early This Year as M&A Advisers Surge

Moelis & Co., the advisory firm founded in 2007 by former UBS AG banker Kenneth Moelis, is exploring an initial public offering early this year, according to two people with knowledge of the preparations.

The share sale would capitalize on New York-based Moelis’s rising stature among merger and restructuring advisers and allow partners and employees, who own about 85 percent of the firm, to sell some of their stakes, said the people, who asked for anonymity because the plans are preliminary and may change. The Wall Street Journal reported the potential offering on Jan. 10.

Moelis could benefit from investor demand for stock in independent advisory firms. Evercore Partners Inc.’s stock nearly doubled last year, while Greenhill & Co.’s rose 11 percent. Evercore went public in 2006, and Greenhill’s debut was in 2004.

Moelis is looking to raise money at a price-to-earnings ratio in the 30s, similar to the levels at which those competitors trade, the people said.

Andrea Hurst, a spokeswoman for Moelis, declined to comment. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is advising Moelis on the offering plans, one of the people said.

Moelis advised on $134 billion in transactions last year, including working with HJ Heinz Co.’s board committee on the ketchup maker’s buyout by Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and 3G Capital. The boutique finished 11th in the 2013 M&A league table, ranking among the year’s top 15 global financial advisers on mergers for the first time in its history, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc., Japan’s second-biggest lender by market value, bought a 5 percent stake in Moelis in 2012 for $93 million. Other outside investors own 10 percent of the firm, the people said.

Kenneth Moelis, 55, opened the firm in 2007 after resigning as president of UBS’s investment bank. His company is advising Omnicom Group Inc. on its merger with Publicis Groupe SA that will create an advertising empire with a market value of more than $30 billion.

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