UK platform provider AJ Bell confirms plans to float

AJ Bell, the Manchester-based investment platform provider and stockbroker co-founded in 1995 by Andy Bell, has confirmed reports that it is preparing for an initial public offering on the London Stock Exchange.

The IPO, which is planned for “the end of 2018 or early 2019”, is to “include a retail share offer available exclusively to AJ Bell customers”, the company said in a statement announcing the flotation, for which it said it has retained Numis Securities.

In its statement, AJ Bell said its management plans to keep its sell-down “modest”, and that the group’s two largst shareholders, Bell and Invesco Perpetual, will “both retain cornerstone shareholdings” after the flotation.

One investor that sold its stake in the company ahead of the announcement of the IPO was the current flagship fund of former Invesco Perpetual star fund manager Neil Woodford, according to a Financial Times report posted yesterday. 

The FT report noted that the Woodford Equity Income fund had offloaded its 8% AJ Bell stake in February.

Rumours that AJ Bell, which had assets under administration at the end of December of £42bn ($58.35bn, €47.35bn), was considering an IPO on the London Stock Exchange’s main market first appeared last month in the UK trade press. Media reports have estimated the value of the IPO at around £500m.

In announcing the IPO, Andy Bell, (pictured above in Manchester’s Old Trafford Cricket Ground, where AJ Bell is a sponsor)  described it as “a natural next step in our journey and will provide a further boost to our future growth, through the increased profile a stock market listing will give us”.

“These are exciting times for our business,” he added.

“Over the last 22 years we have built a multi-award-winning and easy-to-use investment platform that is the engine room of a fast-growing and profitable business.

“We believe the outlook for our business is extremely positive. The need for people to save and invest for their future has never been stronger, and we are making it easier for them to do that.”

He said the retail share offer that is being made exclusively available to the company’s 172,000 customers represented AJ Bell’s effort to “[enable] them to be able to share in our success”.

AJ Bell’s announcement of its plans to go public comes after another UK platform provider, Transact, floated on 2 March, with a £650m valuation. Some other platform providers are understood to also be considering IPOs.

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