The biggest-ever funds management float in Australia, a $560 million offering for 20 per cent of Platinum Asset Management, opened yesterday.

The issue of 112 million shares is being distributed by the manager itself, and brokers Bell Potter and ComSec. The issue is priced on a P:E of 17.6 times current financial year projected numbers, which compares with about 22.6 times for Perpetual Trustees, 19 times for Treasury Group and nearly 30 times for HFA. The prospectus predicts a dividend yield of about 5.5 per cent, which would be above its peer group, with an intention to pay out between 80-90 per cent of profits. Although neither the brokers nor the company is likely to need their support, it will be interesting to see whether any institutional investors take meaningful holdings in what is likely to be a glittering new shareholder line-up. Platinum is an unusual funds manager in several respects: not only is it by far the most successful international manager in Australia, it has also achieved this position despite eschewing commissioned advisor distribution and despite adopting a benchmark-unaware approach to investing. The firm has raised about $22 billion from mainly retail clients in its 13 years since inception. Kerr Neilson, the founder and managing director, will remain the majority shareholder after the issue.

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