Former WH Smith chief in £3.7m windfall after SSP flotation

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Former WH Smith boss Kate Swann enjoyed a bumper payday on Thursday as she collected £3.7m in cash from the sale of shares and a special bonus on the successful flotation of SSP, the company which runs shops and food outlets in airports and railway stations.

The London-based company, which runs nearly 2,000 outlets in 29 countries, launched at a share price of 210p, the lower end of its 200p to 240p expected range, valuing the business at £997m.

The business, which owns the Upper Crust and Caffè Ritazza brands, raised proceeds of £427.3m after fees and expenses of £40m. The company will use £395m to pay down debts, leaving it with about £450m of net debt.

SSP was priced to go after a string of disappointing market listings in recent months, but the shares rose nearly 3% to 215.75p on their first day of conditional trading.

On top of a £1.32m cash bonus she received for bringing SSP to the stockmarket, Swann sold shares worth £2.4m in the float.

She will also be paid a basic salary of £750,000, and could earn twice that again in bonus payouts if she reaches annual profit performance targets.

She is also left with a 1% stake in the business that is worth £9.9m, having joined SSP as CEO less than a year ago.

Swann's latest fortune comes on top of the £13m in cash, shares and share options she left WH Smith with last year.

The highly-regarded retail boss, who defied City expectations to maintain steady profit growth at WH Smith by cutting costs and moving out of less profitable goods such as CDs and DVDs, is seen as one of the main attractions for new SSP investors.

She said: "We are very pleased with the level of support that we have received from a broad range of investors during the IPO process. It is a strong endorsement of SSP's strategy, and of the potential for future growth that we see for our business."

EQT, the Swedish private equity firm which owned a majority stake in SSP, did not sell shares in the flotation, and will retain a stake of about 45%.

It will sit alongside new blue-chip investors including Old Mutual, which owns a 5.9% stake, Artemis Investment Mangaement, which holds 3.8% and JP Morgan Asset Management which owns a 3.6% on flotation.

The relatively disappointing list price for SSP comes after analysts warned that investors would shy away from another debt-laden private equity-backed retailer joining the London Stock Exchange.

In recent months, Bridgepoint-backed Fat Face pulled plans for an initial public offering after running into investor apathy, while Elliot Advisers' Game Digital was forced to lower its price range. Meanwhile shares in KKR's Pets at Home chain continue to trade below the float price.

Powered by article was written by Sarah Butler, for The Guardian on Thursday 10th July 2014 20.15 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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