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1-France's Serveur plans do-it-yourself IPO
February 08, 2002 11:50 AM ET
|Revue de presse
(Adds capital, listing name, background, paragraphs 10,17)
By Caroline Brothers
PARIS, Feb 8 (Reuters) - France's Groupe Serveur, a databank operator that is one of the prime movers in Europe's information industry, is planning a do-it-yourself bourse listing it estimates will value the firm at up to 180 million euros.
Groupe Serveur's colourful founder-chairman Thierry Ehrmann has built up the group, a specialist in databanks from the art market to medical and legal information, since 1987.
Based near the eastern French city of Lyon, Serveur includes 13 subsidiaries, two of which, Artprice.com (ARTF.LN) and Tracing Server (ELIA.LN), are listed on Paris's Nouveau Marche.
Ehrmann told Reuters that Groupe Serveur now has the critical mass to launch an initial public offering (IPO). But having gone down the listing road at least twice before, this time he plans to do it himself.
"This time we will write our own prospectus, do our own one-to-ones (meetings with clients), carry out our roadshows in Europe. We know how it works," he said.
"Ten years ago, we paid and it was very expensive; each time we are paying less and less."
Ehrmann, who peppers his conversation with references to French philosophers, sociologists and Napoleon III, describes a listing as a normal industrial step, though he conceded he would still need the assistance of bankers and auditors.
"We still need signatures... No-one can certify themselves," he said, adding Groupe Serveur would likely seek the help of a French and a foreign, possibly German, bank.
"We will certainly do it in 2002; I think it will be in September or October, whatever the market conditions."
The group, which has shareholder capital of 93 million euros, will be launched under its English name "Server Group".
Ehrmann plans to list about 25 percent of the firm on Euronext and aims to raise some 45 million euros that will be used for further acquisitions in Europe.
The group is aiming to expand its powerful databank networks into more languages and reinforce its presence in markets like Britain and the Netherlands.
"We have about 20 targets in mind," Ehrmann said.
Groupe Serveur expects 2002 turnover of some 110 million-115 million euros and a net profit margin of 15-18 percent.
Recent legal changes mean Serveur owns the intellectual property rights to its databanks, which are accessed by clients who pay to subscribe.
Clients of the future, he says, will access such databases via the Internet with the cost per minute added to their telephone bills.
Tracing Server, in which Groupe Serveur is the leading shareholder, tracks merchandise and the information linked to it and was listed in Paris in December 2000.
Meanwhile, through his 60 percent-owned Artprice.com unit, Ehrmann has placed a bid for the information arm of French auction house Drouot amounting to between 15.25 million and 21.35 million euros.
Artprice.com aims to bring transparency to the otherwise opaque art market by collating prices from auction and records of artists' works and sales.
"All opaque markets,
when you bring information into them, show exponential growth," he
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