Baghdad bounce boosts Yell's plans for flotation

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The Independent Online

Yell, the £3bn Yellow Pages directories, directory inquiries and web-hosting information group, is expected to become the first major flotation since the stock market's Baghdad bounce.

Although a Yell spokesman would yesterday say only that "we note the speculation", the word is that the float plan is being actively considered and could be confirmed in an official announcement as early as this week.

Yell was created in April 2000 as a division of British Telecommunications and sold a year later to two venture capitalists, Apax Partners and Hicks, Muse, Tate and Furst. It has equity of £2bn and debt of more than £1bn.

It is understood that sev-eral hundred million pounds of equity will be floated, to cut debt and allow Apax and Hicks, Muse to sell part of their holdings.

Yell's chief executive, John Condron, tried to float the group last year but was driven back by the savage bear market conditions.

Mr Condron is understood to be tempted by the recovery in share prices since March, and wants tradable paper so that he can take over US directory rivals.

Yell is best known for printed directories in the UK and US. Yellow Pages directories are delivered to homes and businesses throughout the UK and in 40 US states.

Since the deregulation of the 192 directory inquiries service Yellow Pages is promoting the 118 24 7 number. Yell Data provides listing information and direct mail listings on UK businesses. And is an online business and consumer site running a directory search engine, Web links, template websites and domain names.

Yell is a ferocious cash generator, which should make it a favourite with income funds. In the year to March, group turnover rose 28.7 per cent to £1.1bn, and adjusted Ebitda profits was up 31.6 per cent at £323m.

Of that, operating cash flow, excluding one-off items, after capital spending was £307.4m.

As a sign of Mr Condron's hunger to expand in the US, last year he spent $600m (£417m) on buying the McLeod directories business and the $69m purchase of the California-based NDC.