By Terje Solsvik and Supantha Mukherjee
OSLO (Reuters) -Norwegian robotics firm AutoStore said on Wednesday it had priced its initial public offering (IPO) at 31 Norwegian crowns per share, the top of its target range, valuing the company at 103.5 billion crowns ($12.4 billion).
SoftBank-backed AutoStore will be Norway's most valuable new listing for two decades when it goes public on Euronext's Oslo Stock Exchange later on Wednesday.
The company raised 2.7 billion crowns in cash from the issue of new shares, while existing owners such as Thomas H. Lee Partners, EQT and others sold stock worth 15.3 billion crowns.
Its share traded up 8.1% to 33.5 crowns at 0712 GMT, a few minutes after trading started on the Oslo bourse.
"The money we get from the IPO will be used primarily to deleverage the debt to a level that is more normal for a public company," CEO Karl Johan Lier told Reuters.
He plans to bring down the leverage ratio to around 2.5 from the current ratio of between 5 and 6.
Following the IPO, the free float of AutoStore shares will amount to about 17.4% of the overall equity.
Founded in 1996, AutoStore has 20,000 robots deployed across more than 35 countries to automate warehouses. The company, whose customers include ASDA, Gucci and Lufthansa, uses robots to store and retrieve products, allowing customers to store four times the inventory in the same space.
In April, Japan's SoftBank bought https://www.reuters.com/article/us-softbank-group-autostore-idUSKBN2BS1YC a 40% stake in the Norwegian company for $2.8 billion, valuing AutoStore at about $7 billion at the time. SoftBank did not sell stock in the IPO.
"SoftBank is a very good partner, ready to help us drive more attention in the APAC region ... they have a large network of companies that can potentially be AutoStore customers so we see a lot of potential with the relationship," Lier said.
AutoStore is Norway's most valuable new listing since the 2001 debut of Statoil, now known as Equinor, which was valued at 151 billion crowns at the time of its IPO.
Four cornerstone investors, Alecta Pensionsforsakring, FIL Investments, Mawer Investment Management and WCM Investment Management, had each committed to invest $200 million ahead of the IPO.
AutoStore reported net revenue of $182.1 million last year and expects revenue of about $300 million in 2021, rising to more than $500 million in 2022 with a project pipeline worth $3.4 billion across 2,000 projects.
Bankers from Carnegie, J.P Morgan, Morgan Stanley, ABG Sundal Collier, Citigroup, Jefferies, Mizuho, SpareBank 1 Markets and Moelis were involved in the deal.
($1 = 8.3474 Norwegian crowns)
(Additional reporting by Gwladys Fouche in Oslo; editing by Richard Pullin, Stephen Coates and Louise Heavens)