P&O is preparing to float its Bovis subsidiary on the London stock exchange rather than in the USA, as first thought.

A P&O spokesperson said a final decision had not been made but a source close to the company confirmed that there had been a shift in emphasis. The source said: “P&O now has its sights set on the UK, whereas a few months ago, New York was considered the better option.” P&O would neither confirm nor deny the development, saying: “Bovis has more or less the same proportion of business in both locations but the other issue is where the market will give the best recognition of the Bovis brand. It is still finely balanced.” Bovis refused to comment.

Most analysts expect a UK listing. One said: “A market like Nasdaq does not have the kudos of the London market. When push comes to shove, the recognition factor is higher in the UK, and if I were Bovis chairman Sir Frank Lampl, I would be thinking ‘London, London, London’.” Alastair Stewart, European construction analyst at investment bank Robert Fleming, said: “The company is London-based, its headquarters are here and a lot of investors will know the name already. Any listing in the US would probably be a secondary listing.” Another analyst said: “The US is seen as being at the top of its cycle, whereas the UK is more mid-cycle. The UK quotation would certainly match the trade rumours.” Leslie Kent, of Seymour Pearce, said: “US flotations are easier, they have more markets and floats are better accepted by the public. But, as it is essentially a subsidiary of a UK company, it would make sense to float here.” Further speculation suggests that Bovis may push to be listed as a support service to obtain a higher price/earnings ratio.

P&O has indicated that early 2000 is the target date for a float, but that it may move sooner if conditions are right.