May 10, 2018 / 8:04 PM / 2 months ago

Chinese owner eyes Volvo Cars IPO, picks banks: source

NEW YORK/STOCKHOLM/BEIJING (Reuters) - The Chinese owner of Volvo Cars has hired three investment banks for an initial public offering (IPO) this year that could value the Swedish carmaker in a broad range of $16 billion to $30 billion, a person familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: The Volvo logo is seen on the grille of the 2019 Volvo V60 at the New York Auto Show in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo

China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, which bought Volvo Cars in 2010, has picked Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, the source, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are confidential, told Reuters.

A Volvo Cars spokeswoman said an IPO was an option and the decision was up to its owner. She declined to comment further.

Geely said on Friday the firm was “looking at the possibilities” when asked about a potential dual listing for Volvo Cars. “We haven’t made a final decision on how to proceed as of yet,” the company said in a statement to Reuters.

The reason for a Volvo Cars IPO was not immediately clear, although the funds could be used for investment in electric and driverless technology or allow Geely’s boss Li Shufu to fund more deals to add to his growing list of transactions.

These have recently included buying a $3.3 billion stake in truck maker AB Volvo (VOLVb.ST) and purchasing a $9 billion stake in Daimler AG (DAIGn.DE), a rival of AB Volvo.

Established carmakers are investing heavily in new technology against competition from the likes of Tesla (TSLA.O) in electric vehicles and Google (GOOGL.O) in autonomous driving.

Volvo Cars last year promised every model from 2019 would have an electric motor.

TIMING

The potential listing could take place as soon as September this year, the source said, depending on market conditions.

An increasing number of companies have failed to get over the start line in this year’s race to public markets in Europe as investors take a harder line on prices they pay.

Automotive firms looking at potential IPOs include British sportscar firm Aston Martin, the drive systems business of Swiss technology group OC Oerlikon (OERL.S) and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ (FCHA.MI) parts business Magneti Marelli, sources have said.

A Volvo IPO has been on the cards since 2016, when it raised 5 billion crowns ($583 million) from Swedish pension funds AMF, the First Swedish National Pension Fund and domestic insurance firm Folksam. It said at the time that its ambition was to “act as a listed company”.

A source close to one of these Swedish investors told Reuters on Friday that neither Geely nor Volvo Cars had recently held any meetings or discussed a potential IPO with the group.

A source close to another of the Swedish investors said its investment had been made with a future IPO in sight.

Evercore ISI analysts said in a client note that the IPO range given by the source familiar with the IPO details suggested an enterprise value for Volvo Cars of five to 10 times operating profit before depreciation and amortization (EBITDA).

“While premium peers BMW and Daimler trade at about two to three times 2018 EV/EBITDA, we don’t see a higher multiple for Volvo as totally unreasonable, given the potential for growth which will undoubtedly (be) the key pillar in the equity story,” they wrote.

Under Li’s ownership, Volvo has turned around its fortunes and reported four straight years of record sales, helped by its steady push into the premium automobiles market that has pitted it against Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz and BMW (BMWG.DE).

It made revenues of 211 billion crowns ($24.4 billion) in 2017, with an operating profit of 14.1 billion.

    Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley declined to comment on the IPO plans that were first reported by Bloomberg.

    The source said the three investment banks were at this stage joint co-managers and no lead bank had been appointed yet.

($1 = 8.6415 Swedish crowns)

Reporting by Harry Brumpton in NEW YORK, Norihiko Shirouzu in BEIJING and Esha Vaish and Olof Swahnberg in STOCKHOLM; Editing by Anna Ringstrom and Edmund Blair

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