Confidence returns as gaming and property firms line up IPOs

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The Independent Online

Two companies yesterday shrugged off the recent stockmarket turbulence that has a seen a string of firms pull their flotations, saying that they were pressing ahead with plans to list their shares on the Alternative Investment Market.

Shares in Inspired Gaming, a supplier of gambling machines, and the property investment vehicle AFI Europe should be listed for the first time next month. Their decision to brave the volatile markets comes only days after CMC Markets, the financial trading company run by Peter Cruddas, put its flotation plans on ice after investors were spooked by volatile share prices.

Inspired has raised £108m by a placing of shares at 180p with big City investors, underwritten by the broker Evolution Securities. The company, which operates gaming machines in casinos, pubs, bingo halls and betting shops, plans to use the money raised to launch a digital technology platform across the country.

Inspired also operates the fixed-odds betting machines that have reinvigorated the financial performance of Britain's bookmakers.

In 2001, the private equity group Henderson bought Inspired for £230m but struggled under its £170m of debt.

Meanwhile, AFI plans to raise €100m (£68.4m) to refinance existing property investments in its portfolio and make new ones by offing shares to big City institutions here and private investors in America.

The company, a subsidiary of the Israeli conglomerate Africa Israel Investments, owns offices, shopping malls, residential property, business parks and hotels across Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic.

However, the news was not all upbeat yesterday for companies looking to list in London.

MezzVest, the mezzanine finance arm of the Nordic private equity group CapVest, revealed it has postponed its planned London listing until further notice.

The company, set up in 2000 and backed by the US insurance giant AIG, had hoped to command a market value of around €300m.

It, too, is thought to have been spooked by the recent volatility of stock markets.

The £800m flotation of CMC was shelved at the eleventh hour on Wednesday, the same day as Sigma Capital Investments, a Black Sea property group, said it would pull its €140m float until markets stabilised.

Braveheart Investment Group, a technology investment group backed by HBOS, also postponed its £40m debut on the London market and pared the amount of money that it intends to raise by around a quarter to about £15m.

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