Online poker firm set for £5.8bn stock market float

PartyGaming heads for the FTSE 100...

PartyGaming heads for the FTSE 100...

Internet poker company PartyGaming has unveiled plans for a £5.8bn IPO that would be the largest ever float on the London Stock Exchange and send the company straight into the FTSE 100, according to reports this week.

The Gibraltar-headquartered online gambling firm was founded in 1997 by internet porn baron and lawyer Ruth Parasol, her husband and two graduates of India's IT institutes, Anurag Dikshit and Vikrant Bhargava.

The float is planned for the end of June. It will see PartyGaming overtake some of the UK's biggest companies such as British Airways and Sainsbury's in value and will create a windfall for the firm's 1,100 staff.

Also set to cash in on the bonanza is Michael Jackson, the non-executive chairman of UK software company Sage. Jackson joined PartyGaming as non-executive chairman in March this year to oversee the float and is reported to be getting a £500,000 annual salary and a £1m IPO bonus.

The company, whose flagship website is PartyPoker.com, is licensed by the government of Gibraltar and also has offices in the UK and India.

Critics in the City, however, warn that around 85 per cent of PartyGaming's revenues come from the US where the legality of online gambling is still a grey area.

That claim was dismissed by Richard Segal, CEO of PartyGaming, who said the IPO war chest would be used to fund an acquisition drive in a young industry ripe for consolidation.