Flotation price raised for online sports provider 365

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The Independent Online
THE MARKET debut next Thursday of 365 Corp, an online sports and entertainment content provider, is set to ride the wave of the Internet boom that spread to Britain from the US, and is now sweeping Europe.

As with any flotation, market timing is all-important, and with technology stocks setting a scorching pace recently, 365 seems assured of hitting the jackpot. So much so, in fact, that the company has raised the pricing of the shares being sold and cut the amount of stock on offer.

Strong demand for 365, which is being brought to market by Cazenove & Co and Durlacher, prompted an increase in the price range to 150p-160p from 135p-150p. That implies a total market capitalisation of pounds 286m, though only pounds 57m worth of stock will be sold.

Yet that is probably just the beginning. Sources say the unofficial "grey market" price for the stock, according to quotes from City spread-betting shops, is currently factoring in a 30 per cent rise in 365 stock when it enters the market. And that premium could rise further should technology stocks continue to soar.

Technology-crazy investors, both at the retail and institutional levels, have ensured that 365's public offering will be many times oversubscribed. That leaves little alternative but to buy the stock in the market, fuelling a likely price spiral.

At a glance, it may seem odd that 365, which had a first quarter to June pre-tax loss of pounds 167,000 on sales of pounds 4.6m, should trigger such a buying frenzy.

But UK fund managers, most of whom who have missed the outperformance delivered by technology stocks, are anxious to avoid taking yet another pasting. It also helps that recent floats, including the pounds 2.5bn offer of Terra Networks, the Internet arm of Spanish phone giant Telefonica, have boomed.

Although all this may have little to do with 365, fund managers have come away from meetings impressed with the company's strategy to link sport and lifestyle Internet content with a multi-platform strategy incorporating PC, TV and, eventually, mobile phone Internet services.

This is bundled with a strategy of generating multiple revenue streams from advertising, sponsorship, e-commerce transactions and subscriptions as well as telecoms and Internet services.

Investors have also been encouraged by 365's management, which is headed by Dan Thompson, 38, the chief executive, who previously served as deputy managing director of Time Warner Interactive's non-US operations. Simon Morris, 35, the marketing director, was consumer/programme marketing director at BSkyB and prior to that was the marketing director of Sega UK.

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