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Varo Energy scrapped IPO as U.S.-China trade dispute hit markets - CEO

Published 11/04/2018, 15:48
Updated 11/04/2018, 15:50
Varo Energy scrapped IPO as U.S.-China trade dispute hit markets - CEO
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By Julia Payne

LONDON (Reuters) - Varo Energy cancelled its Amsterdam flotation after seeing how the U.S.-China trade dispute had roiled global markets and negatively affected other European initial public offerings, the company's chief executive told Reuters on Wednesday.

Varo announced the cancellation on Tuesday afternoon.

"After all the optimism earlier in the year, the volatility is being driven by recent discussion around the trade war between the world's two biggest economies – the U.S. and China – leading to turbulences in the market, which have had an impact on Varo's planned IPO," CEO Roger Brown said in an interview.

The European downstream company has refineries and storage assets in Western Europe and is owned by oil trading giant Vitol [VITOLV.UL], U.S. private equity firm Carlyle Group (O:CG) and Dutch firm Reggeborgh Invest.

Varo announced its intention to sell 30-40 percent of combined existing shares in March. Banking sources at the time said the firm could be valued at around 2 billion euros ($2.5 billion).

Brown said the investor presentations in December and February had been successful, but then the market became volatile post-ITF (intention to float).

The United States and China have been on the brink of a full-blown trade war since the Trump administration announced in early April a proposed 25 percent tariff on Chinese imports worth about $50 billion. In retaliation, China proposed tariffs on U.S. imports of equal value.

But global markets have been on edge since early March, when Washington announced import tariffs on steel and aluminium that took effect on March 23. The move was widely viewed as designed to pressure Beijing to cut excess production capacity.

"Looking at a number of recent IPOs that did go ahead in Amsterdam, they all listed at the bottom of their ranges and then yesterday they were trading at or below their offer prices," he said.

Dutch bank NIBC (AS:NIBC), energy group Alfen (AS:ALFEN) and wholesaler B&S Group (AS:BSGR) were among those that were negatively impacted when they started trading in the second half of March on Amsterdam's bourse Euronext.

Elsewhere in Europe, the stock values of Deutsche Bank (DE:DBKGn) unit DWS (DE:DWSG) and Sweden's Bygghema (ST:BHGF), which listed at the end of March, also suffered.

NO RUSH TO LIST

Brown said the company would revisit the possibility of a float but there was no timeframe at the moment.

"We're not in a hurry to list the company ... We will continue to grow through M&A and organic investments," Brown said.

"The IPO was not affecting the company, it was a secondary offering, shareholders were reducing their stake. It would give us further financing options going forward but there's nothing urgent at the moment that we can't do."

Varo has made nine acquisitions since being set up in 2012 and Brown said last month that more were coming.

Varo, whose underlying earnings rose to $371 million last year from $328 million in 2016, owns two refineries in Switzerland and Germany, and storage, blending and distribution assets in those two countries, the Benelux nations and France.

Meanwhile, privately held Vitol said on Tuesday that it intended to list its African venture Vivo Energy. Sources have previously also said the trader was considering a float of its Australian venture Viva Energy.

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