Skeepy Deals to Debut in Slow IPO Market

PHILADELPHIA, May 11 (Reuters) – Enthusiasm is scarce for this week's initial public offerings, which include a real estate company and glossy-paper maker, despite a surprisingly strong debut of Colfax Corp on Thursday.

Both Verso Paper Corp, which produces glossy, coated paper for magazines and catalogs, and American Capital Agency Corp, a real estate investment trust, lack the household name recognition or the recession-proof business models that marked the few bright spots in this year's IPO market, analysts said.

“These deals are moving extremely slowly. They may get done but it seems to be taking time and effort to get them out the door,” said Sal Morreale, who tracks IPOs for Cantor Fitzgerald.

Although this year has seen some IPO successes, such as last week's debut of Colfax Corp CFX.N, and Visa Inc's (V.N: Quote, Profile, Research) record $18 billion offering in March, volume in the U.S. IPO market is down 63 percent this year, according to research firm Dealogic.

Both Verso and American Capital will be entering a tough market when they price their offerings on Monday. Verso aims to sell 18.8 million shares at an estimated $16 to $18 per share, while American Capital plans to launch an IPO of 12.5 million shares at $20 apiece.

Verso, a former business of International Paper (IP.N: Quote, Profile, Research), is owned by private equity firm Apollo Global Management, whose stake will be reduced to about 67 percent following the IPO.

Apollo bought Verso from International Paper in 2006 for $1.4 billion and already recouped much of its investment in a dividend recapitalization in early 2007.

Verso expects to use net proceeds of about $295.8 million from the offering primarily to repay debt and for general corporate purposes. Its stock will trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “VRS” (VRS.N: Quote, Profile, Research).

Its customers include magazine publishers such as Conde Nast Publications Inc, National Geographic Society and Time Inc, and catalog producers such as Avon Products Inc and Sears Holdings Corp, the company said.

Verso said the coated-paper market “is one of the most attractive segments of the paper industry due to its prospects for volume growth, continued improvement in pricing and the high value-added nature of its products,” according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Yet, the price-sensitive paper market, as well as the cutback by consumers on shopping and discretionary purchases like magazines could reduce demand for high-gloss catalogs and paper, analysts said.

“It's a tenuous period where good stocks will do well — there's been a couple of sparklers out there, like Visa — but these deals cannot be told to investors if there's a long 'wait and see' story involved,” said David Menlow, president of IPOfinancial.com.

“Unless it's a name they know or an industry they can immediately understand, there's no desire to take a risk on an unknown,” Menlow said.

ROCKY REIT MARKET

Meanwhile, American Capital is a real estate investment trust that invests in single-family residential mortgage securities and collateralized mortgage obligations.

Although the company will focus on mortgages guaranteed by a U.S. government agency, the mere mention of a mortgage-related business could chill interest, analysts said.

“These people are either incredibly smart or incredibly stupid,” Menlow said. “Who knows? It could be an optimum time to buy a REIT because the market may be so discounted that you get a good return. But why try to catch a falling knife?”

Wall Street has been rankled by losses related to subprime mortgages as customers defaulted on loans. Even though American Capital caters to higher quality, government-backed mortgages, the weak housing market and subprime mortgage losses have made investors generally cautious about real estate-related offerings, analysts said.

American Capital acknowledged the rough market conditions in its filing with the SEC, saying “recent adverse developments in the residential mortgage market have caused a significant disruption in financing for residential mortgage-backed securities, or RMBS.”

“Despite these market disruptions, we believe that financing of agency securities will continue to be available on favorable terms,” the company said.

The Bethesda, Maryland-based company's stock will trade on Nasdaq under the symbol “AGNC” AGNC.N.

“The collateralized mortgage business is not something people are trying to get into today. It's something they're trying to get out of,” Morreale said.

“But there may be a price point that's low enough that attracts some interest,” Morreale said.

By Jessica Hall

(Editing by Richard Chang and Maureen Bavdek)