UPDATE 2-Crest Nicholson enjoys strong return to stock market
* IPO priced in upper half of original range
* Shares open 15 percent above issue price
* Raised 225 mln pounds selling new and existing shares (Adds detail, background)
By Brenda Goh
LONDON, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Crest Nicholson got off to a flying start on its return to the stock market on Wednesday, after the British housebuilder completed a listing which valued it at 553 million pounds ($866 million).
The 50-year-old firm, taken private by Scottish entrepreneur Tom Hunter and mortgage lender HBOS at the peak of the market in 2007, priced its shares at 220 pence, the upper half of its original range. Its stock was trading at 248 pence at 1030 GMT.
The initial public offering (IPO), the biggest in London this year, was another boost for the market for new listings in Europe, which started to show signs of life in the final months of last year as stock markets rallied.
At the start of this month, German real estate group LEG raised as much as 1.34 billion euros ($1.8 billion)from its Frankfurt listing, while Moscow's stock exchange was due to complete a $500 million share sale later this week.
Crest's IPO raised 225 million pounds, with 169 million going to existing shareholders, including Varde Investment Partners and Deutsche Bank, and another 56 million to the company to pay down debt and buy more land.
Crest, which builds upmarket homes in the south of England, was majority-owned by U.S. distressed investment fund Varde Partners after a series of deals last year.
The IPO's total size could rise 10 percent if an overallotment option - extra stock that can be sold if investor demand is high - is exercised. On Tuesday, the company narrowed its price guidance to 210-220 pence, from 195-230 pence.
Crest, which endured two rounds of debt restructuring after being hit hard by a housing crash, announced a return to pretax profit on Jan. 21. Of land holdings for which the company has permission to build on, over 95 percent is in the south of England where house prices have stayed relatively strong.
Analysts said Crest still looked discounted compared with peers which have seen heady increases in their share prices over the past year.
"It is the new kid on the block. People need to get to know it and not many people are that familiar with it," said Peel Hunt analyst Robin Hardy who advised the broker's clients to subscribe to the IPO. "Eventually the market will accept the earnings as they are presented and that will give more scope for the share price to get better," he said.
Barclays and HSBC acted as joint global co-ordinators and joint bookrunners on the sale. ($1 = 0.6385 pound = 0.7427 euro) (Additional reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Dan Lalor)
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