The world’s largest natural soda ash producer plans to float in London, a boost to a stock market that has struggled to attract new listings and prevent companies from leaving.
WE Soda, the UK-based group that produces the glassmaking ingredient and is controlled by Turkish media mogul Turgay Ciner, is targeting a $7.5bn valuation, enough to enter the FTSE 100, according to people familiar with the matter.
The group’s decision to opt for London over New York comes after a bruising start to the year for the London Stock Exchange. Initial public offering proceeds are down 80 per cent year on year, with only two listings on the main market in the first quarter, according to EY.
“In London, we can be a big fish in a relatively modest-sized pond,” WE Soda chief executive Alasdair Warren said in an interview.
“The reason we chose London is because we are a Europe-centric business, UK-based and our founder is a resident here . . . within industrials and extractives, it’s a good place to be listed.”
Fears for the future of the London market have deepened after Arm, the chip designer, spurned government entreaties to list in the UK and CRH, the world’s largest building materials, announced plans to switch its listing to Wall Street.
“There’s benefits [to companies] coming at a time when nobody else is as you get a lot of attention,” Warren added.
WE Soda, which announced its intention to list its shares on the premium segment of the London market, is wholly owned by the Ciner Group, and generated $838mn in adjusted core earnings on $1.8bn in revenues last year.
Warren said Turgay Ciner — a billionaire who owns a leading Turkish broadcaster — will continue to hold about two-thirds of the business following the IPO.
WE Soda, has two large production sites in Turkey, expects to invest $5bn to more than double current production capacity of 5mn tonnes of soda ash per year by 2030, primarily by expanding in the US.
Demand for soda ash is expected to rise from 65mn to 81mn tonnes per year by 2030 as a result of increased demand for solar panels and lithium carbonate processing.
However, synthetic soda ash made by companies such as Belgium’s Solvay has fallen out of favour because of high carbon emissions released in the production process. Solvay decided last year to partially spin off its soda ash business.
WE Soda produces the compound also known as sodium carbonate by drilling horizontal wells and channelling water through to dissolve a mineral called trona, creating a concentrated brine from which the soda ash can then be extracted.