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Pioneering Internet bank to float

Egg offering said to be worth up to £4.5bn

Egg, the Internet bank, is set for a multi-billion pound float, it was announced on Wednesday.

Prudential, Britain's biggest life insurance group, announced that it will offer a minority stake in its online bank subsidiary later this year. Analysts predict the float could be worth between £1.5bn and £4bn. Prudential said Egg customers who signed up before 22 February will be able to participate in the offering.

The group has not yet announced how much of the bank will be offered, according to Jonathan Bloomer, Prudential's chief executive designate. However, Bloomer estimated it will be between 15 and 25 percent. "We haven't yet settled on the percentage," he told reporters. "External analysts are currently putting a value on it somewhere between about 1.5 and four billion [pounds], and it's certainly in that range."

Egg launched in 1998 and, like other online banks, has signed up hundreds of thousands of customers by offering low interest rates. The online bank had 800,000 customers and deposit funds of £7.6bn at the end of 1999. Customer numbers are expected to hit one million in March.

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