Google float hits fresh hitch as UK firm starts G-Mail action

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The Independent Online

The number of shares available to investors in the Google float is to be increased but the online search engine was hit by more bad news yesterday when a British company said it was taking legal action against the American company.

The number of shares available to investors in the Google float is to be increased but the online search engine was hit by more bad news yesterday when a British company said it was taking legal action against the American company.

Google also announced it had settled a patent lawsuit with Yahoo yesterday by paying its internet rival about $300m worth of shares, in a move that will cause it to book a $260-$290m charge - and report a loss - in its first quarter as a listed company.

The company's planned initial public offering has been beset by recent reports of investor apathy and rumours that the complex and unusual structure of the share sale may be changed or even delayed.

Google, however, is pressing ahead with its plans for an estimated $36bn (£20bn) float which involves an auction of shares to institutions to set the IPO price. This could begin this week but is thought more likely to start next week. The estimated price of Google's IPO is $108-$135 per share.

Yahoo, which was a early investor in Google, is to increase the number of shares it plans to sell in the IPO to 1.6 million from 549,888, leaving it with a stake of about 4 per cent. And Independent International Investment Research (IIIR), a UK company, revealed that its lawyers had contacted Google over the use of the term G-Mail. Google used the phrase for a messaging service that it launched similar to e-mail but IIIR said it had the intellectual property rights to the name.

Addressing the company's annual meeting, IIIR's chairman, Shane Smith, said: "Our lawyers have been in contact with Google Inc in relation to protection of our intellectual property in the trade mark 'G-Mail'. Our lawyers have emphasised our preference for an amicable solution and the dialogue continues." The company's shares soared 77 per cent on hopes for a financial windfall from the discussions.

Google's float prospects were further dented yesterday by a report from Jupiter Research into paid search listings, where advertisers pay for their website links to appear next to search results. The research predicts that the annual growth rate of these paid search listings - a crucial source of income for Google - will decline to 11 per cent in 2009 from 65 per cent last year.

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