Kate Swann, the former boss of WH Smith, stands to gain as much as £15m from the flotation of catering company SSP less than a year after joining the business.
SSP priced its initial public offering (IPO) at the lower end of a revised price range at 210p per share, valuing the company at £997m.
Shares in the company which runs food outlets such as Upper Crust and Caffe Ritazza in airports and rail stations, rose by over 5pc before closing up 5.75, or 2.74pc, to 215.75p in their stock market debut, bucking the recent trend of lacklustre flotations.
Prior to the float Ms Swann had a 1.8pc stake in SSP, funded in part with her own money when she joined last September. She used the IPO cash in £2.4m worth of shares but Nordic private equity owner EQT awarded her an additional £2.48m worth of shares in the IPO taking her stake back up to 1pc, worth £9.66m at listing price.
Controversially, Ms Swann has also been given a £1.35m cash bonus for her role in taking the company public. SSP’s investor prospectus revealed that on top of her £750,000 basic salary she will be entitled to a bonus of up to 200pc of that which can be paid in a lump sum or monthly instalments. In addition, the boss ranked as one of the “50 Most Powerful Woman in Business” has also been granted share awards of up to 200pc of her salary tied to SSP’s total shareholder return and earnings per share performance.
Sources close to the process admitted that the stellar reputation of the former WH Smith boss and her 25 years of retail experience had led to a “Kate Swann effect” during the bookbuilding process with investors.
“We are very pleased with the level of support that we have received from a broad range of investors during the IPO process. It is a strong endorsement of SSP’s strategy, and of the potential for future growth that we see for our business. This is an important next step for SSP and we are looking forward to life as a listed company,” Ms Swann said.
SSP’s listing price had been “priced to go” to ensure a positive aftermarket performance, sources said. The £997m valuation was reached after careful tinkering from the company’s advisers which saw the price range narrow twice during the bookbuilding process.