Saxo Bank eyes Copenhagen listing after failed SPAC merger –CEO

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Jan 9 (Reuters) - Saxo Bank could give its external investors a new chance to cash in, including via an initial public offering (IPO), as early as this year, CEO Kim Fournais told Reuters, after plans to merge with a blank-cheque company collapsed last month.

"There's always been a wish to eventually do a listing of Saxo," said Fournais, adding that the bank is in no rush to float while market turmoil persists. Nasdaq Copenhagen would likely be the preferred venue for a float, he said.

Saxo Bank, valued at 2 billion euros ($2.14 billion) in September, could also explore a private share placement as a way for Chinese automaker Geely (0175.HK) and Finnish insurer Sampo (SAMPO.HE) to reduce their stakes, a source familiar with the matter suggested.

The Danish broker will keep "all options open", but its default plan is to go public, Fournais added.

However, no final decision has been made, and the timeframe of a liquidity event could slip into next year and even beyond 2024, the executive said.

Financial advisers are yet to be appointed, as management's near-term focus is on running the business, he added.

"It depends a little bit on the external circumstances. Hopefully, they look much better during this year or the next… but it could be even later," Fournais said. "We learned a lot in the process of the SPAC, which also means we're in a position where we can react quickly."

Last September, Saxo Bank, which offers digital trading solutions, revealed it was in talks to be acquired by Amsterdam-listed Disruptive Capital AC (DCACS.AS), a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) led by British financier Edmund Truell, at a valuation of at least 2 billion euros.

The negotiations were called off in early December, mainly due to "challenging market conditions", according to a statement at the time.

A merger with Truell's SPAC would have seen Geely and Sampo trim their shareholdings in Saxo Bank, whereas Fournais, who co-founded the business in the early 1990s, would have bought additional shares, as per the preliminary agreement.

Geely and Sampo acquired 52% and 20% of Saxo Bank, respectively, in 2018 from existing investors, including private equity house TPG Capital, valuing the company at more than 1.3 billion euros.

"Geely's support for Saxo Bank's management and its strategy continues to this day and into the future," a spokesperson for the company said.

Geely has listed some of its portfolio companies, including Swedish carmaker Volvo Cars, in which it retains an 82% stake.

A spokesperson said Sampo does not see Saxo Bank as a core investment and aims to reduce its stake, though it is not in a rush to do so.

Sampo has been cutting its exposure outside of non-life insurance in an effort to refocus its business, exiting Scandinavian lender Nordea last year.

Saxo Bank posted a 12% fall in first-half 2022 income to 2.15 billion Danish kroner and a 41% drop in net profit to 302 million kroner, amid lower trading activity and the integration of BinckBank, which it acquired in 2019. It oversaw 591 billion kroner worth of client assets.

($1 = 0.9365 euros)

(This story has been corrected to say that Geely shareholding in Volvo Cars is 82%, not 8.2% in paragraph 13.)

Reporting by Pablo Mayo Cerqueiro; editing by Elisa Martinuzzi and Jason Neely

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