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IPO market below expectations

THE number of businesses listing on the Australian sharemarket nearly doubled last financial year, with the resources sector leading the charge.

THE number of businesses listing on the Australian sharemarket nearly doubled last financial year, with the resources sector leading the charge.

But the floats of rail operator QR National and Westfield Trust eclipsed funds raised by other businesses, disguising an otherwise weak initial public offering market.

A Deloitte Corporate Finance survey shows that the value of funds raised in floats jumped to $7.6 billion in the last financial year, compared with $4 billion the year before.

QR National and Westfield Trust generated $4.05 billion and $2.01 billion respectively.

Deloitte Corporate Finance partner Steve Woosnam said the listing of QR National had raised hopes for the IPO market, but the market overall failed to meet expectations.

"The equity market simply couldn't match the valuation expectations of vendors or those achieved through private sales," he said.

In total, 123 businesses were floated on the sharemarket compared with 63 the previous year, down from 221 in 2007.

Western Australia accounted for 63 IPOs. There were 13 in Victoria and 26 in New South Wales.

The resources sector produced 95 floats, almost 80 per cent of the total.

Fortis Mining, which listed at 20? a share in December, was the best performer. It raised $3.5 million to fund gold and base metals exploration in WA. The shares climbed 575 per cent after the company acquired potash interests in Kazakhstan.

Platypus Asset Management portfolio manager Prasad Patkar said investors were willing to take risks on resources stocks but other sectors remained weak. "Commodity prices are the only source of optimism," he said.

Mr Patkar said "macro uncertainties", including European debt problems and a struggling US economy, had dampened investors' enthusiasm. "All those issues are weighing down on the risk appetite in general," he said.

Mr Patkar said the pipeline was full of companies waiting for the opportunity to float.

"I don't think the market's all that strong to be honest.

"I think there were a lot of floats which have struggled to come on," he said.


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