UPDATE 1-Owner of Germany's Flixbus kicks off IPO preparations -sources

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FRANKFURT, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Germany’s Flixmobility, which runs long-distance bus firm Flixbus, is preparing for a potential stock market listing as it looks to raise funds for expansion, people close to the matter said.

One of the few German tech startups to achieve scale in recent years, Flixmobility is seeking a valuation in line with other technology companies, rather than the lower earnings multiples that transport firms trade at, the sources said.

The company is working with investment banking boutique PJT Partners, they said, adding that a flotation could take place next year if market conditions are favourable.

In response to a Reuters enquiry, Flixmobility said: “While we have no concrete plans for a public listing, management is always monitoring the financial markets in case an IPO is relevant in the future.”

PJT declined to comment.

Flixmobility, which operates under the Flixbus and Flixtrain brands, runs a technology platform where travellers can book bus or train rides.

It became a major player on European long-distance routes after Germany liberalised the market for inter-city bus services in 2013.

While travellers usually board buses painted in the company’s lime-green livery, the vehicles are owned and run by independent operators.

The asset-light model is similar to ride-hailing apps like Uber or Lyft, which has just filed notice of its own intention to float.

The model allows Flixmobility to focus on route planning, timetabling and fare payments, while maintaining flexibility to move into new markets and scale up operations quickly.

The company’s colourful buses serve 2000 cities in 27 countries. After surviving a fierce price war among new entrants, it boosted its market share in Germany to more than 90 percent.

Earlier this year it expanded into the United States, taking on rivals such as Greyhound and Megabus and establishing a main hub in Los Angeles. It has also run train services since 2017.

Flixmobility was founded by entrepreneurs Jochen Engert, Andre Schwaemmlein and Daniel Krauss and has raised five rounds of external funding, according to Crunchbase, with investor Silver lake leading the most recent round in December 2016.

The company is 35.9 percent owned by private equity firm General Atlantic, while the company’s founders hold 23.8 percent, Holtzbrinck Ventures 16.3 percent, Silver Lake 10.8 percent and Daimler 5.6 percent. (Reporting by Arno Schuetze, Additional reporting by Douglas Busvine, Editing by Tassilo Hummel and Kirsten Donovan)