FT : Promethean Plans $800m IPO

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Promethean, the UK-based maker of interactive white-boards, is planning an initial public offering valuing it at £400m-£500m ($660m-$825m), which would propel it to the front of the class in the rapidly expanding market for digital classroom technology.  The flotation plans would make a paper multimillionaire of Tony Cann, Promethean’s founder.  Smart Technologies, Promethean’s larger Canadian-based rival, is also considering an IPO.  The groups make interactive whiteboards, which are fast replacing traditional chalkboards in schools, as well as other electronic devices such as digital slates, which pupils can use to respond to the teacher.

Smart, founded by husband and wife team David Martin and Nancy Knowlton in 1987, is expected to grow its revenues by a third from $430m in the year to March 2009.  The Calgary-based company, which is also backed by Intel Capital, supplies whiteboards for a wider market than education, including military battle planning and corporate training.  The UK is a world leader in the adoption of interactive whiteboards, which are used in about three-quarters of British classrooms.  Only a quarter of US classrooms have such equipment, and this is where the two groups expect to see rapid growth.  It costs about $4,500 to equip a classroom, and the $1bn market for interactive whiteboards is growing by 20-30% a year

Apax Partners, the London-based private equity group, is invested in both Promethean and Smart and stands to make large profits if they float successfully.  A £400m IPO would value Promethean at 18 times last year’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of £22m.  But its profits rose 60% from the previous year.  Mr Cann founded Promethean in 1996 and still owns about 50% of the business.  It is chaired by Graham Howe, one of the founders of Orange, the mobile phone operator.  Promethean’s managers and Apax both own 25% of the company, but the private equity group withdrew from the board after buying 49% of Smart in 2007.  Promethean has appointed Gleacher Shack-lock as a financial adviser and Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan as global coordinators for its planned IPO next year.

Reference : Financial Times, Nov 30th 2009

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