News agency on line for float

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THE PRESS Association, the 126-year-old UK news agency group, is heading for the stock market, writes William Kay.

Although it is not rushing to the head of the queue in the present chilly climate - another 17 flotations are believed to have been pulled last week - PA quietly changed its constitution last year to turn itself into a commercial operation.

Robert Simpson, the chief executive, said that when the group feels ready to float - probably in two or three years - its shareholders would vote on the issue. By that time it could be worth nearly pounds 100m. 'We are changing from a non- profit making institution into a market-driven company.'

PA was originally set up by regional newspaper groups to give them as good a nationwide reporting service as national papers had.

However, it is now changing direction, propelled by the driving forces of increased competition and fresh opportunities. Computer technology has made it easier for others to set up in competition, and has also given PA the chance to spread its wings. 'We are planning for the day when other people will want to own shares in PA,' said Mr Simpson. 'The charter for management is to develop the company to the point where it could go public.'

He admitted he would like to follow the success of the Reuters news agency group.

Market signals, page 7