One51 once again eyes a stock market listing

Can chief executive Alan Walsh finally succeed where previous IPO attempts failed?

Alan Walsh, chief executive of One51. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Alan Walsh, chief executive of One51. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

The 2,000 or so shareholders in One51 – including farmers, dairy co-ops and high-net-worth individuals who followed the once-unquestionable business touch of its former chief executive Philip Lynch – have probably lost count of the number of times in the past decade that a stock market flotation has been dangled in front of them.

But after unpicking Lynch’s ragtag of unconnected investments (from Irish Pride Bakeries to a large stake in ferry operator Irish Continental Group and more besides) over the past seven years to deliver a focused rigid plastics maker, the company’s now 40-year-old chief executive, Alan Walsh, is in a position where he can credibly begin to pursue an initial public offering.

While investors will have to wait 12-18 months before the long-awaited liquidity event, an important obstacle – businessman Dermot Desmond – has been removed this year.

The billionaire sold his 25 per cent stake in the company in May to Caisse de Dépôt et Placement du Quebec (CDPQ), a Canadian investment firm that manages public pension plans. One51 had pulled a planned flotation in April last year following opposition from certain shareholders, including Desmond.

The Dublin-based group, whose shares are tradable on an illiquid grey market operated by a number of brokerages, revealed on Monday that its first-half earnings before interest and tax rose almost 33 per cent to €20.1 million.

That’s excluding the ClearCircle UK and Irish hazardous waste businesses it sold during the period.

Meanwhile, it has upped its bet on the global fixed plastics market, using its IPL plastics subsidiary to mop up a bulk bins maker, Macro Plastics, in June for $150 million.

Walsh confirmed on Monday that the new investors, CDPQ, have given their “full support” for an IPO, which would “provide shareholders with a liquid market for their shares and would facilitate raising further equity if necessary to support future growth”.

Analysts at Merrion Capital see 33 per cent upside from the stock’s current grey market price of €1.85. Davy and Goodbody Stockbrokers were similarly effusive, with the former saying it plans to raise its earnings forecasts for the company.

There’s a lot of hope riding on an IPO at last, most likely in Toronto. Can Walsh finally deliver?

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