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Austrian insurer Uniqa launches £623 million share offer

By Michael Shields

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austrian insurer Uniqa (VIE:UQA) launched a share sale on Monday that aims to raise around 750 million euros (623 million pounds) for expansion abroad and boost its free float to as much as 36.7 percent.

Its "re-IPO" - so called because it will raise the free float from just 7 percent - is set be the biggest deal on the Vienna Stock Exchange since the 411 million-euro initial public offering (IPO) of aluminium group AMAG (AMAV.VI) in April 2011.

It comes amid a resurgence in European equity-related financings such as IPOs, follow-on deals and convertible bond issues as market confidence has improved. Bankers working in the sector expect the rest of the year to be busy.

A total of $133.7 billion (83.3 billion pounds) has been raised in equity capital market deals in Europe so far this year, up to September 19, up 66 percent on the same period last year, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Deals already under way in September include a planned stock market listing by Britain's Royal Mail, and a 5.95 billion pound share issue by Barclays (LSE:BARC).

Uniqa set a price range of 7.50 to 8.50 euros per share for the offer, which combines a rights issue to existing shareholders, a public offering and a private placement to institutional investors.

Its core shareholders have agreed not to take part in the rights issue, which offers five new shares for each 11 held now, it said. Raiffeisen Zentralbank (RZB.UL) holds 45.3 percent now, the Austria insurance foundation 44.1 percent and the Collegialitaet foundation 3.3 percent.

Its stock, which closed at 9.151 euros on Friday, slipped to a low of 9.00 euros before paring losses to trade nearly unchanged at 9.149 by 0900 GMT after the well-flagged deal.

The process is set to run until October 8, with trading in the new shares to start on October 11.

Gross targeted proceeds include 700 million euros from the sale of new shares plus around 50 million from the sale of shares in a greenshoe overallotment tranche.

It will use the money to strengthen its balance sheet and "provide strategic flexibility for further growth", it said.

Uniqa has said it aims to double the number of customers it had in 2010 to 15 million by 2020 and increase pretax profit by up to 400 million euros between 2010 and 2015.

It plans to use the proceeds from the share sale to fuel expansion in eastern Europe, where it is seeking acquisitions worth up to 150 million euros.

Deutsche Bank (GER:DBK), Morgan Stanley (NYS:MS) and Raiffeisen Centrobank are joint bookrunners, with Barclays (LSE:BARC), Berenberg and UBS (VTX:UBSN) as co-bookrunners. KBW is advising Uniqa.

(Additional reporting by Kylie MacLellan in London; Editing by Louise Heavens and Greg Mahlich)