Energis poised to join Branson's Lottery team

ENERGIS is to be the next big name on the list of backers Richard Branson has signed up for his not-for-profit bid to run the National Lottery, writes Clare Francis.

The business telecoms, data and internet group is to be the telecommunications arm of Mr Branson's planned People's Lottery. Energis, which is also a partner in Freeserve, the free internet service, has been in talks with the Virgin tycoon over the past few weeks.

Already in the Branson camp are Compaq, the American computer giant, management consultancy KPMG and advertising agency J Walter Thompson, owned by WPP.

The licence of the current Lottery operator, Camelot, runs out in October 2001. Camelot hopes to renew its licence for another seven years. However, it has been heavily criticised for the high salaries its executives receive and the huge profits it makes - pounds 20.2m in the six months to September 1999.

Mr Branson has promised to donate all the money the Lottery makes to charity. "There will be no dividends and no shareholders creaming money off the top. We believe the people should be the beneficiaries, not the operator," he said.

Despite these claims, and Mr Branson's confidence that his bid will be successful, a lot of secrecy remains as to the details of the People's game.

Camelot remains the favourite to secure the rights to the Lottery, triumphing over Mr Branson for a second time.