Italian broadband company Unidata bucks Milan virus rout with IPO

MILAN (Reuters) - Broadband provider Unidata UD.MI made its debut on the Milan stock exchange on Monday after managing to complete Italy's first new listing of the year in a country that has so far been harder hit by the coronavirus than any other European Nation.

Shares in Unidata rose 4.6% before an automatic trading suspension because of excessive volatility, bucking a plunge across global financial markets driven by fears of recession.

Milan's wider market .FTITLMS fell 10.7% by 1254 GMT, bringing the overall drop since the outbreak in Italy first came to light on Feb. 20 to more than 40%.

Unidata, which provides high-speed Internet connections in Rome’s Lazio region, held its investor roadshow on Feb. 24-28 against the backdrop of daily updates on the number of deaths from the virus. By Sunday, 1,809 people had died of the 24,747 who have contracted COVID-19 in Italy.

Its stock last traded at 13.6 euros per share before the suspension, compared with an IPO price of 13 euros ($14.46).

As the European country worst hit by coronavirus, Italy has been the first to enforce a nationwide lockdown that has confined millions of Italian to their homes, driving a surge in online traffic as companies embrace smartworking and bored teenagers turn to electronic games.

Chief Financial Officer Roberto Giacometti said Unidata had been able to allay investor concerns about the coronavirus impact on its business plan by highlighting how crucial its services had become for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The Italian government has urged companies to rely on smart-working as much as possible, forcing a quick change of habits in a country that lagged the rest of Europe in remote-working.

An annual report on smartworking by Milan’s Politecnico University in October showed that only 12% of Italian SMEs had formal remote-working projects in place, against 58% of larger firms.

Traffic on the Unidata network has more than doubled in the last week, Giacometti said.

Unidata, assisted by Envent Capital Market, sold new shares for 5.7 million euros and has a market value of around 30 million euros.

It trades on the Milan bourse’s AIM segment, a segment for SMEs with more flexible admission requirements.

Reporting by Elisa Anzolin; editing by Valentina Za and Barbara Lewis