INSURANCE tycoon Peter Wood has secured a multi-million-pound payday after the esure business he founded in 2000 made its stock market debut.
Shares in the owner of Sheilas’ Wheels and half of comparison website Go Compare were priced near the top end of hopes at 290p, valuing the firm at £1.2bn. They later climbed to 305p in conditional dealings.
Wood, who founded Direct Line in 1985 and is the chairman of esure, has banked in the region of £190m after reducing his stake to 30.9%.
The float, which placed 50% of shares in public hands, raised £50m towards paying down company debt.
It follows the stock market return of housebuilder Crest Nicholson, which was priced at 220p or £550m on February 13 and is now trading at 290p, and last week’s listing of estate agency owner Countrywide.
The esure business, which was made famous by the late Michael Winner’s “Calm down, dear” television ads, was created out of a joint venture with the Halifax before Lloyds Banking Group sold its 70% stake in 2010. Prior to the flotation, Wood owned 90% of the business alongside private equity backer Tosca Penta.
The Surrey-based company had 1.25 million in-force motor policies and 500,000 home policies at the end of 2012, helping it to more than double pre-tax profits to £115.5m last year.
The company’s conservative approach to underwriting means 87% of its motor policy holders are over 30 years of age, while 98% of in-force home policies are located in areas considered to have low risk of flooding.