Deal fever sweeps the City as Beckham-backed float joins wave of takeovers

A deal frenzy gripped the City today as a flurry of companies pushed the button on £250 million of post-lockdown stock market floats and takeovers.

Bankers and brokers have become increasingly busy since the summer as companies tap investor appetite for tech stocks and take advantage of Covid making troubled assets cheaper.

Takeover speculation has surged around firms including Rolls-Royce, Royal Mail, the AA, BT and Hastings.

Today, a new esports franchise, Guild Esports, backed by ex-England footballer David Beckham, revealed plans to join the London stock market. Beckham, co-owner of US football team Inter Miami, has a significant minority stake as one of the company’s founding shareholders. He will retain his holding.

The company, aiming for a valuation of £50 million, is looking to capitalise on a boom in the esports sector after lockdowns helped to attract new gamers and audiences grew due to traditional sporting fixtures being cancelled.

Zeus Capital and Mirabaud Securities are advising on the autumn IPO.

Tech entrepreneur Jonathan Rowland, son of tycoon David “Spotty” Rowland, unveiled his stock market return with digital banking fintech Mode Global Holdings. Mode, whose app lets customers manage sterling, euro and bitcoin in one place, is to float next month with a value of around £40 million.

CEO and founder Rowland was 24 when his internet investment company Jellyworks joined the London market during the dotcom boom in 2000. Its shares soared as the public piled in, only to collapse when the bubble burst.

Rowland, also co-founder and director of UK challenger bank Redwood, believes Mode can tap into the transition to online and mobile payments in the wake of Covid-19. Twitter co-founder Biz Stone is another backer.

Alfred Henry Corporate Finance and Peterhouse Capital are advising.

UK protective gear company Avon Rubber snapped up US helmets and lining business Team Wendy for $130 million (£100 million), advised by Evercore. Team Wendy was founded by Ohio entrepreneur Dan Moore in 1997 as a memorial to his daughter who suffered a brain injury on a ski trip.

It makes hi-tech padding used by military around the world and will sit alongside Avon’s existing tech business. The deal was funded by the £180 million sale of Avon’s Milkrite dairy equipment division.

Tech giant Computacenter said it will acquire Canadian IT firm Pivot for C$105.8 million (£62 million) to increase its scale in North America. Computacenter was advised by Obair Partners.

Sir Martin Sorrell’s S4 Capital — which today posted a 60% increase in first-half revenues to £141 million, signalled it had another takeover looming.

Sorrell, who raised £116 million in July to fund a takeover warchest said he had “a strong pipeline” of possible deals.

“We’ve done four since Covid and have something else coming later this week. When furloughs are taken off and subsidies are taken out in the US there will be pressure on small and medium sized businesses to sell.”