Online casino Cassava plans IPO -sources - Friday 12th of August 2005

Cassava Enterprises is planning an initial public offering in London that would value the Internet casino operator at more than 700 million pounds, sources close to the deal said on Wednesday.

"An IPO is the companys preferred option," one of the sources said.

Another source added: "The IPO may or may not happen in September. Very preliminary estimates value the firm above 700 million pounds."

The Financial Times reported that Cassava is working towards a September 1 launch date, citing people close to the plans.

HSBC will be the sole bookrunner on the deal, while brokers Panmure, Bridgewell and Numis Securities are co-lead mangers, the sources added.

Gibraltar-based Cassava runs gaming several online casinos, including 888.com, Pacific Poker and Reef Club Casino. Cassava could not comment on its IPO plans immediately.

The flotation is expected to generate big windfalls for the two Israeli families that control more than 90 per cent of the company.

Avi and Aharon Shaked own about 70 per cent, while the Ben-Yitzhak family owns about 23 per cent. The company has 20 million registered member accounts in more than 150 countries.

LONDON HUB

London is fast becoming the de facto listing centre for Internet gambling companies, partly because Britain welcomes online gaming, while the United States, which is home to most players, strictly regulates it.

Rapid industry expansion, helped by better broadband access and the convenience of playing at home, has fuelled revenue growth at the companies hosting the Web sites.

PartyGaming, the world leader with more than half the online gaming market, went public in June at a value of about 4.6 billion pounds.

Gaming consultancy Christiansen Capital forecast online gaming revenue will rise to $22.7 billion (12.6 billion pounds) by 2009 from $8.2 billion in 2004. It estimated that the online share of the global gambling market will rise to 8.1 percent from 3.4 percent.

A report in the Sunday Express newspaper this week said Cassava was mulling a bid for its rival PokerStars. Cassava could not be reached for comment on that report.

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