Today in London Williams will launch its share scheme to the media and the City.
The bulk of the shares on sale belong to Patrick Head, who is obviously looking to release the equity he has held in the team since the late 1970s and will semi-retire.
He will remain a director of Williams and of Williams Hybrid. Reuters reports that merchant bankers expect the stake to raise in the region of $50 million (£35 million). Frank Williams and Toto Wolff are holding their shares and are in for the long haul.
Williams hopes to sell up to 27.39% or 2,739,383 existing shares at between €24 and €29 each, valuing the company at around £250 million.
According to the prospectus, “(The) IPO positions Williams F1 for the future, providing a more sustainable ownership structure that will support its growth as an independent constructor. (The) offering follows three years of profits and a net cash position of £24.8m as at year-end 2010
The offering is expected to begin on 9 February 2011 and is scheduled to conclude on or around 28 February 2011. The first day of trading on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange is expected on 2 March 2011.
Williams has been working closely with the Qataris in recent years and if anything it was expected that they would take a stake in the team. One wonders whether the decision of FIFA to grant Qatar the 2022 Football World Cup derailed that plan and prompted the rethink which led to flotation.
The Williams floatation is being closely monitored in F1 and wider sporing circles. With F1 expenditure more stable due to the Resource Restriction Agreement and revenues growing all the time, a successful sale could illustrate that investors now consider an F1 team to be a proper business rather than a vanity or emotional investment.
There are also suggestions that FIAT may be thinking of a floatation for Ferrari. The company recently bought back the shares held by Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Corporation.
Germany was chosen for the Williams IPO because the level of disclosure is lower so confidential FOTA and FOM information relating to the Concorde Agreement will not be revealed.
Bernie Ecclestone said, “We want more Franks and Patricks. If I could buy shares in the Company I would.”