Ultimate Bet lays out its float plan - Tuesday 12th of July 2005

THE operator of Ultimate Bet, one of the world’s leading on-line poker firms, is gearing up for a £200m flotation just weeks after larger rivals Party Gaming and Empire Online made their stock-market debuts.

Excapsa, which runs Ultimate Bet, has hired Canaccord Capital to advise it on the possible listing. It hopes to raise almost £30m from the flotation and the company, headed by chief executive Jim Ryan, would be valued at between £145m and £200m.

The site, launched five years ago, has its gaming licence in Kahnawake, Canada. It is the seventh-largest poker room on the internet, according to Pokerpulse.com, which monitors poker sites. It has recently launched in the UK under the Ultimate Poker brand.

The City appears to have an insatiable appetite for poker stocks, following the purchase of Paradise Poker last year by Sportingbet, the online gambling group, as well as the Party and Empire flotations.

Analysts expect merger activity in the fledgling sector. Last week a Citigroup research note suggested that Party may consider a takeover of Empire.

Meanwhile St Minver, which sets up and runs online gambling websites for third parties, including Yahoo and Virgin, is also working on plans for a flotation. It has appointed Panmure Gordon, the stockbroker, to work on a possible listing, which may happen in autumn.

The company’s chairman is Anthony Wollenberg, a gaming industry veteran.

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