John Wood Group, Britain's largest oil services company, is planning a GBP 1bn (US$1.45bn) flotation in London in the biggest Scottish IPO since 1993. Sir Ian Wood, the chairman and chief executive of the group, said: “We are looking at a range of acquisition opportunities.” The move was seen as a sign of further strengthening in the UK market for initial public offerings, which has been slow for the past year and a half. “It's the first indication of activity in a long time,” said Iain Macarthur, analyst with Bell Lawrie White in Glasgow. Sir Ian said that the Aberdeen based group, which is planning to come to market in late May or early June of this year, had chosen to float in the UK rather than the US, where the oil services market is larger and less fragmented, because US oil services stocks tended to move solely according to oil price movements. “We feel we have a better chance of being recognised and understood in the UK,” he said. The Wood family will hold forty five per cent of the stock after the flotation, down from their present sixty three per cent holding. Wood plans to raise GBP 140m of new money, giving it a market capitalisation of about one billion pounds, making it a small global player but a significant one in the UK. The net proceeds would be used to make selected acquisitions, accelerate organic growth and reduce the group's $260m of debt. “This should leave us with about $400m of firepower,” Sir Ian said. Analysts said that a flotation was imperative if Wood was to meet its aim of becoming a global force in the oil services industry and competing in a sector dominated by the giant US groups Halliburton, Schlumberger, Baker Hughes and Weatherford. Wood's decision was widely welcomed in Scotland. “It'll put some life back into a moribund sector,” said Thorold Mackie, an analyst at ING in Edinburgh. The flotation is the first of such scale by a Scottish company since the listing of Stagecoach, the transport group, in 1993, and will put the group among a small elite of one billion pound-plus capitalised companies which includes Scottish Power and Royal Bank of Scotland. Overall, Scotland has lost fifty listed companies over the past decade but witnessed a little more than a dozen IPOs. Only around thirty Scottish companies remain listed on the stock market. Cazenove and Credit Suisse First Boston are joint book runners and joint sponsors for Wood's global offer. Morgan Stanley, Schroder Salomon Smith Barney and UBS Warburg will lead-manage the deal. The news came as Wood announced a forty three per cent increase in revenue to $1.52bn and a 56 per cent increase in operating profit to $104m.
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