Sky News – 11th January 2019
Global Switch, the British-based data centre operator, is drawing up plans for a stock market listing in Hong Kong that could value it at more than £9bn
Sky News has learnt that Global Switch, which is majority-owned by a consortium of Asian investors, intends to hire investment banks in the coming weeks to help list the company after years of speculation that it could go public.
A flotation, which is likely to see the London Stock Exchange missing out unless Global Switch opts to pursue a dual listing, is expected to take place later this year. The precise timing is likely to depend on the state of international equity markets, with recent volatility having put paid to the listing hopes of several other companies.
Global Switch is part-owned by Aldersgate Investments, a vehicle set up by the billionaire Reuben brothers who have made fortunes from real estate holdings. They originally sold a 49% stake in the company, which provides data centre services to corporate clients, to Chinese investors for £2.4bn in 2016.
That deal sparked concerns about the security of customers’ data, which Global Switch rebutted by insisting that it does not have access to any of the information held on its sites. “Global Switch simply builds and operates high quality, technical real estate with the right power, cooling and physical security required by IT service providers,” the company said in a recent statement. “It then leases space to its customers who fit out their own secure cages with their own servers – these cannot be accessed by Global Switch nor its investors.”
A further 25% stake in the company was sold to other Asian investors last July in a transaction valued at £2.1bn.
One shareholder suggested that the £8.4bn valuation implied by last year’s share sale was likely to be surpassed in an eventual flotation. The decision to pursue a flotation in Hong Kong reflects both the nature of Global Switch’s share register and its increasing focus on expanding its operations in Asia.
Among its current investors are the Hong Kong investment arms of Haoyue Capital and Jiangsu Sha Steel Group, the largest private steel producer in China. China CITIC Bank International, which is regulated in Hong Kong, is also an investor. Li Qiang, Global Switch chairman, increased his personal stake in Global Switch from 0.7% to 4.8% as part of last July’s transaction, valuing his shares at the time at almost £400m.
The company, which continues to be run by John Corcoran, its long-serving chief executive, has previously said that an initial public offering would be held “on a leading international stock exchange in Europe, Asia or North America”. One insider cautioned that the decision to list in Hong Kong was still subject to formal approval and could change.