Europe's largest chain of franchised optical stores delayed its public offering after institutional investors rejected the initial pricing proposal of e17.25-19.75 a share (see March 28 issue). The price range was lowered to e15-17, and the number of shares offered was reduced. The group's chairman, Alain Affelou, decided not to sell any of his own shares and Apax Partners sold only two-thirds of the shares it was going to offer, while the company issued a greater number of shares than initially planned to finance a e30 million equity increase.

In the end, the Alain Afflelou chain went public at e15 a share, valuing the company at e225.5 million, still well above the valuation of e137.2 million that had been used two years ago by Afflelou himself and Apax to buy it back from other institutional investors. Conducted by Crédit Lyonnais, the final Apr. 10 flotation on Euronext's over-the-counter market in Paris, raised a total of e69 million, including a 15 percent greenshoe option. Institutional investors subscribed the offer 1.4 times, and strong retail demand has kept the price up above e15 ever since.

In the end, the equity increase diluted Alain Affelou's personal stake from 50.67 to 43.81 percent, but his shares will carry double voting rights after Apr. 27. Apax' interest has declined from 33.6 to 16.55 percent.