The return of the tech IPO?

The days when a different tech company or dot-com was launched on the stock market each week are long gone, but one company could be ready to take the plunge

Speculation is mounting that London's stock market will soon see the biggest flotation of a technology company for years -- a sign that the years of dot-com downturn and IT anguish could be over.

According to reports on Monday, Scottish semiconductor maker Wolfson Microelectronics -- which was once part of Edinburgh University -- could float this autumn for as much as £400m.

The company's chips are used in a range of high-tech devices, including Apple's iPod and the Microsoft Xbox console. In 2002 it made a pre-tax profit of £2.4m on sales of £22.4m, compared to a loss of £700,000 in 2001. It is thought that despite a relatively modest turnover there could be considerable interest if Wolfson came to market, as the company is aiming to substantially increase its annual sales over the next few years.

According to the Financial Times, a final decision on the flotation hasn't yet been made, and will be dependent on market conditions later this year.

Initial public offerings, or IPOs, were all the rage in the 1990s as technology companies and dot-coms rushed to raise funds to fuel their ambitious expansion plans, and to cash in as investors threw money at the sector.

The bubble burst in spring 2000, triggering years of gloom, plunging share prices and many business failures, but in recent months many tech and Internet firms have seen their fortunes rise -- leading to speculation that the good times could be returning.