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By Kylie MacLellan
LONDON (Reuters) - British motor and home insurer esure <ESUR.L> completed a share sale valuing it at 1.2 billion pounds on Friday, London's biggest new public share offering so far this year.
Founder and chairman Peter Wood, who owned almost half the company prior to the float, will bank around 186 million pounds from reducing his stake by a third, while esure expects to raise 50 million pounds from the sale of new shares to repay debt.
Esure priced the sale of a 50 percent stake at 290 pence per share, towards the upper end of its original 240 pence to 310 pence range, and saw its shares open 8.6 percent higher on their debut.
By 0848 GMT the stock was up 6.4 percent at 308.5 pence.
The insurer's successful offering gives another boost to Europe's nascent new listings market which, buoyed by improving stock markets, has picked up in recent months after years of subdued activity due to the financial crisis.
Also on Friday wind farms investment fund Greencoat UK Wind <UKW.L> said it had raised 260 million pounds in an oversubscribed London flotation.
British estate agent Countrywide <CWD.L> has seen its shares rise around 11 percent since its stock market debut on Wednesday, while cabling equipment maker HellermannTyton is also due to complete a London listing on March 26.
Esure, which insures about 5 percent of Britain's drivers, said 10.8 percent of its offering had been bought by retail investors.
Wood will remain esure's largest shareholder following the float with a stake of 30.9 percent, while buyout firm Tosca Penta Investments, which had just over 37 percent before the listing, will retain around 11.6 percent of the company, assuming an overallotment option is not exercised.
That option, whereby extra shares can be sold if demand is strong, could increase the size of the offer by 15 percent.
In 2010 Wood led a consortium that paid 200 million pounds for a 70 percent stake in esure held by Lloyds Banking Group <LLOY.L>.
The entrepreneur, who in 1985 pioneered telephone-based insurance sales in Britain with the launch of Direct Line <DLGD.L>, founded esure 13 years ago as a joint venture with mortgage lender Halifax, itself acquired by Lloyds in 2008.
Esure's debut comes five months after that of Direct Line, whose shares are trading 16.7 percent above their offer price.
Deutsche Bank and J.P. Morgan Cazenove were joint global co-ordinators and joint bookrunners on esure's sale, while Canaccord Genuity and Numis Securities were co-lead managers.
(Editing by Greg Mahlich)