Midland eyes $398m placement

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 March, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 March, 2005, 12:00am

Property agent Midland Realty (Holdings) aims to raise up to $398.5 million via a placement of 80 million shares at a 6 per cent to 8 per cent discount to yesterday's closing price, fund managers say.

The sale, which included 64 million new and 16 million old shares - together accounting for 11.4 per cent of Midland's share capital - came after its share price closed at a record high of $5.55 last Thursday.

The shares had been climbing steadily since early last month, supported by strong secondary housing market activity, but have fallen back slightly in the past two days on concern rising interest rates might dent demand for new homes. The shares closed at $5.30 yesterday.

The indicated discount would price the shares at between $4.876 and $4.982, but one fund manager said the final price would not be decided until today.

A spokeswoman said Midland's shares would be suspended from trading today while the placement was being completed, but was unable to confirm details of the sale. Nor could she say where the money would be used.

Lehman Brothers, the sale arranger, would not comment.

Midland has been expanding aggressively in line with the turnaround in the property market. After increasing the number of its outlets by 64 per cent to 350 last year, it plans to hire an additional 1,000 employees this year.

In January, Midland also agreed to buy a 51.8 per cent stake in loss-making EVI Education Asia for $107.5 million. It plans to use the firm to develop online training programmes for property agents and other licensed service industries. The deal would be financed from internal resources, the management said at the time.

Midland this month posted its largest profit since listing in 1995 after a jump in secondary transaction volumes lifted its net profit 191 per cent to $357.23 million last year.