Photography firm floats at £160m

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The Independent Online

The photography specialist Jessops was forced to cut its flotation price today amid tough stock market conditions.

The photography specialist Jessops was forced to cut its flotation price today amid tough stock market conditions.

The retailer, which has 263 stores in the UK, was valued at £160 million amid poor demand from investors that has hit a number of recent market debuts.

Jessops had expected the move to give it a market capitalisation of between £173 million and £189 million.

Other companies that have overcome tough market conditions in recent months include Virgin Mobile, which floated on the London stock market this summer.

Jessops chief executive Derek Hines said: "We are delighted that the global offer has been successfully completed, despite the uncertain stockmarket conditions."

He said he believed investors shared the group's view that it was well-placed to profit from the growth of digital photography.

The company hopes the move will enable it to increase its profile and build on its success cashing in on the digital revolution.

Market research group Mintel has forecast that the market will grow by 23% to £2.7 billion over the next four years, with 76% of this in the digital sector.

Jessops was founded in 1935 and operated as a family firm until 1996, when it was acquired in a management buyout. ABN AMRO then took it on in 2002 but prior to that, a plan to float was thwarted by poor stock market conditions.

All new capital raised - around £97 million - will be used to repay debts in full.

The group, which employs around 2,800 staff, has been investing heavily in digital technology as the medium takes over from traditional film.

It sells a wide range of digital cameras and accessories, allows customers to develop digital pictures in its stores, and has also introduced Jessops branded paper for home printing.

As well as camera equipment, it stocks digital and analogue camcorders, binoculars and darkroom and studio equipment.

Today's dealings were conditional, meaning only institutional investors can buy shares. The offering will be available to the general public in a week.

Shares were going on sale at 155p.

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