* Shares priced at 48 francs, at top end of range
* Start trade at 51 francs
* Company places 17.1 million shares
* Greenshoe option granted of up to 10 percent
* Offer several times oversubscribed (Adds trading start)
ZURICH, March 20 (Reuters) - Swiss group DKSH, which helps companies market and distribute their goods in Asia, made a strong start in one of the first sizeable European initial public offerings since mid-2011 as its shares traded well above the offer price on Tuesday.
The offer of 30 percent of DKSH, which lists the likes of Nestle, Roche and GlaxoSmithKline among its clients, raised 821 million Swiss francs ($901 million) for its founding shareholders. No new shares were sold.
DKSH priced its IPO at 48 francs per share, compared with price guidance of 46-48 francs that had been narrowed from 42-48 francs. Its shares started trade on the Swiss bourse at 51 francs, up 6 percent from the offer price.
“The interest and demand of institutional and private investors were exceptionally high,” chief executive Joerg Wolle said, adding the offer was several times oversubscribed at the price of 48 francs per share.
DKSH said it had granted syndicate banks an over-allotment option of up to 10 percent of the shares offered, which can be exercised until April 18. Its IPO was the first sizeable listing on the Swiss bourse since airline catering firm Gategroup floated in May 2009.
DKSH was one of two IPOs under way in Europe after several months in which firms put plans on ice due to market volatility - Dutch cable firm Ziggo was due complete its IPO on Tuesday.
Majority shareholder Diethelm Keller Holding, which owned around 63 percent of DKSH, will remain an anchor shareholder with a stake of at least 46 percent.
DKSH traces its roots to the 1860s when three Swiss entrepreneurs sailed to Asia and built a reputation as reliable business partners. In 2000, the Diethelm and Keller groups joined forces before coming together with Siber Hegner to form DKSH two years later.
The company now operates in 35 countries in the region and is No. 1 in its sector in Asia, according to a study by Roland Berger Strategy Consultants.
Deutsche Bank and UBS acted as joint global coordinators on the offering and were joint bookrunners with Berenberg Bank and Credit Suisse.
The consortium also included Credit Agricole and the Zuercher Kantonalbank as co-lead managers. ($1 = 0.9110 Swiss franc) (Reporting by Caroline Copley and Emma Thomasson; Editing by Dan Lalor and Hans-Juergen Peters)