Chemicals Giant Univar Prices Expanded IPO at Top of Range

NEW YORK (The Deal) -- Univar (UNVR), the global chemicals distributor backed by private equity, began trading Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange after increasing the size of its anticipated initial public offering, with insiders boosting the size of the offering,and pricing the shares at the top of the expected range.

Univar, backed by private equity sponsors since 2007, offered 35 million shares at $22, generating $770 million in proceeds and indicating a market capitalization of $3 billion. That was a 75% increase over the 20 million shares that the company indicated would be included in the IPO in earlier securities filings.

Shares closed at $25.40, up 15.5%, on Thursday.

The IPO includes 20 million shares being sold by the company, and an increased 15 million shares from its private equity sponsor CVC Capital Partners, the U.K. private equity firm that took a majority stake in the company in October 2007.

Univar's other private equity sponsor, Clayton Dubilier & Rice, which took a 42.5% stake in the company in September 2010 -- giving it the same ownership percentage as CVC at the time -- is not selling into the IPO. Clayton Dubilier and CVC will collectively hold 55% of the shares of the public company.

The underwriters' over-allotment also increased in size to 5.25 million shares from the three million shares previously indicated. Deutsche Bank Securities, Goldman Sachs and BofA Merrill Lynchserved as lead book-runners for the offering.

In addition to the IPO, Univar is simultaneously executing a private placement of $500 million with Temasek Holdings, the Singapore state-owned asset manager. Of the $500 million, $350 million comes from shares being newly issued by the company, and the remaining $150 million in shares by CVC, Univar said.

Univar, founded in 1924 and based in Downers Grove, Ill., said it would use the proceeds of the IPO to pay down $650 million in debt. The company's relatively high level of leverage has been a source of some criticism from ratings agencies. In April of last year, Moody's Investors Service cut its rating on Univar, citing what it described as slim margins -- typical of the chemicals distribution industry -- and the substantial debt levels. Moody's recently said that a successful IPO could prompt it to consider upgrading its rating on the company's debt.

Univar, the leading chemicals distributor in the U.S., and second-largest in Europe, operates in what is considered a relatively fragmented market. The company reported 2014 sales of just over $10 billion, little changed from the prior year's total, though it narrowed its net loss last year from what it had posted the prior year.

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