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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

High-Tech Stock Slump Puts the Breaks on IPOs




LONDON -- Some big British firms delayed plans to go public Tuesday as investors shunned Internet stocks, leaving the biggest and most eagerly anticipated debutante, online bank Egg, examining its options.


Life office Prudential Securities capped a day of hand-wringing over the global slump in high-tech stocks, saying it was examining its plans to float Egg next month in the light of market conditions.


Egg is estimated to be valued at between pounds 1.5 billion and pounds 2 billion ($2.22 billion and $3 billion), which would make it one of the biggest London flotations this year.


"No decision has been taken on the exact timing of that announcement," said a Prudential spokesman.


"Market conditions are an important factor and the company will continue to examine the situation in light of this."


Prudential is due to publish its prospectus for Egg this week. But, for many British companies, the new bear market in technology, telecom and media stocks has proven to be unnerving.


Internet firm Telecity pulled its London listing, which was expected to value it at around pounds 690 million, on the day it was to have begun trading.


Corporate wireless services firm Project Telecom followed suit, halting its Tuesday flotation, which would have valued it at around pounds 250 million, but said it still planned to float, possibly as early as next week.


"Investors are finding it difficult to make decisions in these conditions, and they need a little more time," said a broker at its banker, Cazenove.


Computacenter delayed this month's flotation of its Biomni e-commerce joint venture - initially estimated to value the unit at pounds 715 million - until at least July.


The freezes come a week after British-based online clothing retailer boo.com became Europe's biggest dot-com failure, sending jitters into a market unnerved by U.S. falls.


On Monday, British digital television company Static 2358 said it had also put its flotation plans on ice after signing up France's Canal Plus as a new strategic investor.


But Static, which had been due to unveil details of its flotation Tuesday, denied market turbulence was to blame for the change of plan and said it was simply "not the time to repackage the deal to include the Canal Plus deal." In the two months since storms hit the high-tech sector, ending a spell of uninterrupted sunshine, investors have run fastest from pure Internet business-to-consumer companies.


Tuesday's stalled initial public offerings also show this area is in some trouble and the unease has spread as the general market flounders.


L. Gardner Group PLC, a British aerospace engineer, shelved plans to demerge and float its advertising-to-shelving Direct Message business due to market conditions.


Opal Telecom, which resells spare calling capacity on other networks, also delayed its flotation.


The news was not all bad with other companies, even high-tech ones, saying they would plough on - or even announcing new flotations.


Orchestream, which develops software to prioritize data travelling on Internet protocol networks, said it would seek a full listing this summer via an offering of new and existing shares. Sources said the company was looking to raise around pounds 50 million in a flotation that would value Orchestream at around pounds 200 million.