Cenkos boss to bid for the Tote

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The Independent Online

Stockbroker and racehorse owner Andy Stewart is to offer the Government a way out of its ever- more tortuous attempt to sell the Tote.

Mr Stewart's move follows ministers' rejection of a 320m offer from a racing consortium as too far beneath the initial 400m valuation.

Mr Stewart said he wanted to float the state-owned bookie on the London Stock Exchange with the Government retaining a large stake. That could be enough to reassure MPs nervous of what a trade buyer might mean for jobs in the North-west, where the company is a big employer.

But Mr Stewart, the founder and head of Cenkos Securities, warned that the plan would only work if ministers were prepared to revise downward their current "unrealistic" valuation.

Talking to The Independent on Sunday, Mr Stewart said he would use an accelerated initial public offering where a stockbroker takes ownership before quickly floating a business on the London Stock Exchange's junior AIM market for the Tote.

The business would, he said, need to be at least half funded by equity. The consortium bid was largely funded through debt.

"The numbers we have run suggest it is probably worth about 260m. Even 320m looks wildly optimistic because conditions in the market have changed with the credit crunch," he said.

"We would be happy for the Government to retain a significant stake, and floating the Tote would enable the racing public to take a stake in the business."

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