Billionaire Turkish family unveils first major London IPO in 2023

An industrial materials maker controlled by a billionaire Turkish family is set to launch the FTSE’s first major IPO this year, raising hopes a dearth in public listings could be coming to an end.

WE Soda, the world’s largest producer of natural soda ash which is used in glass manufacturing, expects to price its share offering by the end of June and join the FTSE 100 shortly thereafter.

The company is controlled by the Turkish Ciner family,who have a home in London and own a number of industrial businesses as well as media outlets in Turkiye.

The firm could fetch a market cap of up to $8 billion (£6.5 billion), according to Mergermarket. That would make it the biggest UK IPO since pharma giant GSK’s £28 billion spinoff of its consumer health business Haleon in July last year. It comes amid a turbulent time for the London market, in which a suite of businesses including chip designer firm Arm and building materials maker CRH snubbed the FTSE in favour of pursuing a listing in New York in search of higher valuations.

WE Soda chief strategy and risk officer Nicholas Hall told the Standard: “Despite the challenging market backdrop, we’re confident of a successful listing.

“The FTSE 100 is associated with quality and prestige and given that history it seems the right place to list. Investors are seeking quality companies with defensive characteristics.”

The company is also exploring an offering to retail investors of up to £7 million in shares, the maximum permitted under European rules, in a move which Hall said was because “an important investment opportunity should be open to everyone.”

WE Soda had revenue of $1.8 billion (£1.4 billion) in 2022 with EBITDA of $848 million. The company generates five million tons of natural soda ash annually across two facilities in Turkiye. Proceeds from the IPO will be used to fund its $5 billion investment into building two new sites in Wyoming, USA, in a bid to more than double production. Glass manufacturing accounted for around 60% of global soda ash demand in 2022.

The company is chaired by Didem Ciner, a graduate of the London School of Economics and the wife of Turgay Ciner, the billionaire behind the Ciner group conglomerate, which owns a number of industrial and energy businesses as well as Turkiye’s highest-circulation newspaper, Haberturk, and operates the Turkish TV station of media firm Bloomberg.

Another of the company’s subsidiaries, Ciner Glass, was granted permission to build a £390 million glass container factory in South Wales in June last year in a move which would create 600 new jobs.

Susannah Streeter, head of money and markets, Hargreaves Lansdown, said: ‘’WE Soda’s intention to list on the London Stock Exchange is a boost for the City just as the capital has been left reeling from some high-profile names which have opted for the bright lights of New York instead.

“By describing the FTSE 100 as being associated with quality and prestige, the company has provided a ray of light for London, with the LSE’s defensive characteristics considered a benefit at a time of uncertainty due to soaring inflation and high interest rates.

“The stock market launch of the industrial materials maker will be the FTSE’s first major IPO this year, but although this is a much-needed drop in a parched landscape, it’s still unlikely to lead to a flood of immediate listings due to the still volatile nature of market sentiment. Nevertheless, it brings a wash of confidence to London, and raises hopes that the City can capitalise on the UK’s entrepreneurial activity in the sustainable solutions sector.”

Image: reuters


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