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Exova seeks £110m from stock flotation

EXOVA, the metal testing business, has announced plans to raise £110 million in a stock market flotation that is expected to value it at around £800m and has recruited the chairman of Wood Group, Allister Langlands, to its board.

RECRUITMENT DRIVE: Allister Langlands, the chairman of Wood Group, has been appointed to the Exova board.
RECRUITMENT DRIVE: Allister Langlands, the chairman of Wood Group, has been appointed to the Exova board.

The proposed flotation on the London Stock Exchange by Edinburgh-based Exova, which has clients in industries like oil and gas and aerospace, will be the biggest completed by a Scottish firm for more than five years.

It should allow America's Clayton Dubilier & Rice to book a big gain on its investment in Exova.

The private equity firm bought the business from Cheshire-based Bodycote for £417m in 2008 when the global economy was facing a deep recession.

Exova said Clayton Dubilier & Rice will sell an unspecified number of shares.

Led by chief executive Ian El-Mokadem, the company said some of its directors will also sell some of their holdings, without giving details.

The company's chief financial officer, Anne Thorburn, is a Scots accountant.

The flotation, expected to complete on the main market next month, will result in an important addition to the ranks of listed firms in Scotland. This has been thinned by takeovers involving names such as Dana Petroleum in recent years.

The last Scottish firm to float on the main market was Livingston-based Energy Assets in March 2012. The meter specialist was valued at £57m by the flotation.

Superglass, the insulation maker joined the main market in 2007, with a capitalisation of £105m.

Listed companies provide high value head office jobs and generate valuable work for professional services firms and others in the supply chain. Exova employs 150 people in Edinburgh, in head office functions and oil and gas testing.

It employs a total of around 60 people in Aberdeen and Glasgow.

Asked if Exova's headquarters would remain in Edinburgh following the flotation, Mr El-Mokadem said: "We very much like having our head office in Edinburgh as part of the UK; that works very well for us."

The company did not say how it might feel if Scotland voted for independence in September.

The flotation move appears to be timed to capitalise on a resurgence of investor interest in initial public offerings by newcomers to the stock market.

A series of firms including Poundland and appliance seller AO World have listed in recent weeks.

Exova will hope to win a good response from institutional investors.

The company has achieved rapid growth amid boom times in industries like oil and gas around the world.

Exova's services include helping firms check the metal used in the pipelines that are laid on the seabed in areas like the North Sea.

The company increased turnover 10%, £25.4m, to £279m in 2013 from £253.6m.

Underlying earnings, before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation increased by 14%, £7.4m, to £61.1m from £53.7m.

Mr El-Mokadem said Exova expected to capitalise on increasing regulatory demands and growth in its markets around the world.

Clayton, Dubilier & Rice's Fred Kindle, who is non-executive Chairman of Exova, said:

"Our teams around the world have built a strategically focused, financially successful company with a sustainable business model.

"Becoming a public company is a natural next step."

He added: "I am delighted to welcome Allister Langlands to our board as senior independent director. Allister brings valuable public company and industry experience to our team and we all look forward to working with him as Exova continues to grow."

Mr Langlands has become one of the best known figures in Scotland's oil services industry and gained experience of the pressures listed companies face in 12 years on the board of Wood Group, including five as chief executive.

Exova has operations in 22 countries. It employs 3600 people.

The company did not give any indication of what price it expected to offer shares at.

Ms Thorburn spent 14 years as finance director of Greenock-based British Polythene Industries before joining Exova in 2009.

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