June 10, 2012 3:44 pm

Metro Bank raises £126m as it eyes IPO

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Metro Bank, one of the newest entrants to the UK retail banking market, said its latest £126m fundraising would be its last before a planned flotation in 2014, as it continues to invest in expanding in south-east England.

Metro was the UK’s first new high street bank in a century at its foundation two years ago, and it vowed to win clients from larger rivals through a focus on customer service. While the company says its growth has been “ahead of plan” – it now has over 80,000 accounts – expansion into some areas has been tougher, and Metro made only 100 mortgage loans in its first 15 months of operations.

However, Craig Donaldson, chief executive, said its latest capital raising had been oversubscribed, with interest from new investors and existing shareholders, who include Fidelity, the asset manager. Metro had planned to raise £110m but could have raised over £140m, he said.

The capital increase, which followed fundraisings of £75m and £50m in 2010, would “secure growth into the [initial public offering]”, which Metro wanted to undertake in the first half of 2014, Mr Donaldson added.

While he conceded that the IPO could be delayed by inclement markets, Mr Donaldson said that this would not cause serious problems for the bank. “We have no wholesale funding – we’re not beholden to the markets at all,” he said.

Metro will use the new capital to open seven new branches in south-east England, adding to its existing 12, and to increase its workforce from 500 to 700. Metro wants to have 200 stores in the region by the end of this decade.

The company’s reluctance to pursue acquisitions meant that its focus would remain on the “commuter belt” for the foreseeable future, Mr Donaldson said.

Metro has won over some customers by offering a more extensive service than some of its larger rivals: its branches are open seven days a week, while its customer service call-centre is open at all times. Mr Donaldson said its strategy was modelled on that of Commerce Bank of the US, which was sold five years ago for $8.5bn. The latter bank was founded in 1973 by the American entrepreneur Vernon Hill, one of the original investors in Metro Bank.

Other recent entrants to the retail banking market include Shawbrook Bank, launched last year with a target of lending £250m to small and medium-sized enterprises in its first 12 months, and Aldermore Bank, established in 2009 through a relaunch of Ruffler Bank. Marks and Spencer and Tesco have both announced plans to offer banking services.

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