Aegean is not enticed, holds fast on IPO line

Two private equity funds earlier this month submitted bids for the acquisition of Aegean Airlines, Greece’s top privately operated carrier, turning its scheduled initial public offering (IPO) into something of a thriller. An offer by Texas Pacific Group (TPG) for a majority stake in Aegean was reported to have seriously tempted the carrier’s shareholders, as it was estimated to be in excess of the highest valuation expected with its listing on the Athens Exchange (ATHEX). Aegean had sought to raise about -150 million by floating 25 percent of its share capital, in order to finance its expansion plan – already underway after the delivery in March of the first three Airbus A320 of 19 ordered. Aegean’s board met on the night of June 8 to evaluate the bids of TPG and BC Partners. The carrier’s capitalization had been estimated at around -450-500 million. According to reports, TPG’s initial offer was in the region of -470-500 million. It was said to be sufficiently attractive to cause disagreement among major shareholders. The latter include Theodoros Vasilakis, who holds 45 percent, and the Laskaridis group with 25 percent. Sources close to Vasilakis said the board thoroughly examined TPG’s offer for a majority stake but there had never been any intention of handing over management, as Vasilakis does not want to withdraw from the air transport sector. On the same night, Aegean issued a statement confirming the interest of equity funds but making it clear that it was staying the course for listing. «The company will proceed with the IPO in order to bolster its capital and its growth prospects through its particularly important program of investment in new aircraft… The company’s listing on ATHEX is more compatible with its long-term growth plans,» Aegean said. Market sources do not rule out the possibility of TPG, which has stakes in other airlines, returning with an improved offer at some point. Aegean Airlines’ IPO will run from June 27 to 29. It will be the first airline to list on ATHEX. Shares will also be offered abroad, with Citigroup having been appointed sole manager and bookrunner for the international placement.

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