March 14, 2018 / 8:27 PM / a year ago

Airline caterer Gategroup opens books for IPO of up to $2.8 billion

ZURICH (Reuters) - Bookbuilding for an initial public offering of airline caterer Gategroup is set to open on Thursday, the group said in a statement late on Wednesday, with a price range set between 16 and 21 Swiss francs per share.

The logo of Swiss Gategroup Holding AG catering company is seen in front of an office building in Kloten, Switzerland April 7, 2016. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

The target price implies a total market capitalization of about 2.1 billion to 2.6 billion francs ($2.2-$2.8 billion).

Chinese conglomerate HNA Group, which bought Gategroup in 2016, announced this month it was seeking a public listing for Gategroup, raising funds to help tackle HNA’s liquidity crunch.

Gategroup, which employs 43,000 people, was listed in Switzerland before HNA bought it.

The move is the latest in the aviation-to-financial services conglomerate’s drive to restructure its operations, while raising cash by selling equity and real estate assets.

Up to 21,875,000 new shares will be offered as well as 54,220,000 currently owned by HNA, Gategroup said. Syndicate banks would also be granted an over-allotment option of up to 7,609,500 existing shares if demand is strong enough.

“The expected gross proceeds from the primary offering of approximately 350 million francs are expected to be used for the acquisition of the remaining shares of Servair from Air France-KLM, the partial funding of pension plans and other general corporate purposes,” Gategroup said in a statement.

Bookbuilding is expected to run through March 26, with trading in the shares opening on Swiss bourse SIX on March 27.

Beyond the public offering in Switzerland, private placements would be offered to investors in select countries outside of Switzerland as well.

Gategroup, which provides catering for Virgin Atlantic, Norwegian and other airlines, increased its revenue by 35 percent in 2017 to 4.55 billion francs, and doubled operating profit to 167.1 million francs.

($1 = 0.9444 Swiss francs)

Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi; Editing by Mark Potter

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