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Line up, line up: Twitter, Royal Mail and Foxtons go to market

After a flurry of initial public offerings (IPOs) earlier in the year, with Esure, Countrywide and Partnership Assurance among the UK companies to go public, a new wave of IPOs are lining up to go to market, including Royal Mail, Foxtons and, most recently in the US, Twitter.

Twitter rather aptly tweeted its intentions to float on the stock market yesterday (12 September) with leading technology IPO specialists Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati tipped for the role.

The social media giant, estimated by the Wall Street Journal to be worth around $10bn, took advantage of a rule adopted last year by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which allows growth companies with under $1bn in revenues to keep their financial details confidential until closer to the float.

According to Reuters, Twitter’s lead adviser will be Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, famous in Silicon Valley for taking public big names such as Apple, Netscape and Google.

Yesterday also saw the UK government notify the London Stock Exchange that the long running Royal Mail IPO is imminent, with lead advisers Slaughter and May, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Linklaters now gearing up to do a deal that has been in the pipeline for over a year. Royal Mail is being advised by Slaughters, led by equity capital markets (ECM) partner John Papanichola alongside corporate finance partner William Underhill.

The past year has seen the Slaughters team assisting Royal Mail in its preparations for float, advising on numerous thorny issues including its employee share scheme, which will see the postal group’s employees take 10% of the shares and the remainder go to institutional investors and the public. ‘It is a slow process and is not expected to go to market before November,’ one ECM partner said of the IPO.

Freshfields is advising the government, with corporate partner Tim Jones leading for the Department for Business Innovation and Skills on the IPO, backed by a team including pensions partner Charles Magoffin. Linklaters are advising the underwriters, Goldman Sachs and UBS.

Meanwhile, Foxtons IPO, also a private equity exit in which Dickson Minto is representing long-term clients BC Partners, which bought Foxtons in 2007 for £360m with £300m of bank debt, is expected this September. The company was badly hit by the financial crisis and lenders Bank of America and Mizuho stepped in in 2010 in a debt-for-equity swap after BC Partners breached its bank covenants, however, the private equity house kept its minority stake and regained control last year.

More recent estimates place the value of Foxtons’ IPO above £700,000 and, given the success of earlier IPO’s, there is a renewed buzz in the market, underlined by cautious optimism. ‘It’s a general question of confidence, the backdrop of the last few years consisted of private equity exits performing badly at market. There was talk of the pricing mechanism breaking down. But with the success of Crest Nicholson earlier this year, there is a renewed appetite for IPOs,’ said one corporate partner at a US firm based in London.