LONDON (Reuters) - Finance and travel price comparison Web site Moneysupermarket.com plans to float in London in July in a deal seen worth as much as 1 billion pounds ($2 billion), making it Britain’s biggest technology listing for almost 7 years.
The company’s majority owner and CEO said the initial public offering (IPO) could pave the way for acquisitions at home or in Europe to sustain its pacey growth.
“We haven’t made any decisions on any particular acquisitions but it is something we constantly review and look at. The advantage of a flotation is you could move quickly,” said Simon Nixon, who co-founded the business 14 years ago and made it Internet-based from 1999.
Moneysupermarket.com gets revenue from banks, airlines and other providers when its price comparison site directs a user to the provider’s site for them to make a booking. It also gets advertising income.
Nixon told Reuters in an interview he would consider exporting his business model overseas — to France, Spain or Germany — or buying a company that complements its business in Britain.
The company, which also owns the Travelsupermarket site, helps consumers compare mortgage rates, car prices and travel packages. Its sites attracted about 64 million visitors last year, it said.
Nixon declined to comment on the likely valuation of the company but said growth remained strong with revenues up 67 percent in the first quarter and profits doubling.
Media reports have said the company could be worth up to 1 billion pounds, and even at half that it will be the biggest technology, software or internet company to list in London since Autonomy in November 2000, according to LSE data.
The move to float comes after Nixon agreed this month to buy out his estranged co-founder of the business.
Nixon bought a 45 percent stake from Duncan Cameron for 162 million pounds, leaving Cameron with a 5-percent stake and Nixon controlling between 85 percent and 90 percent.
That deal implied a valuation of 360 million pounds for the company, but sources familiar with the situation said at the time other undisclosed factors were at play in the transaction and the company’s valuation was likely to be much higher. It plans to repay debt taken on after buying Cameron’s stake.
Management will retain just over half the shares after the IPO and, with Cameron’s stake, just over 40 percent of the company is likely to be offered, Nixon said.
Shares will be offered to retail investors, and Nixon said the flotation should “be done and dusted by the end of July”.
He said an IPO would raise the firm’s profile and credibility and help retain and incentivise staff.
The company runs sites including money, insurance, travel and home services. Its revenues rose 54 percent last year to 105 million pounds, but pretax profit fell by a fifth to 11.7 million. Revenues rose to almost 40 million pounds in the first quarter, generating a profit of 9.6 million.
Credit Suisse is adviser to the company and bookrunner for the IPO. Lehman Brothers is co-lead manager.
Additional reporting by Kerstin Neuber