poised to buy Loot for £250m

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The Independent Online, the internet services directory, is poised to snap up Loot, the free classified-advertisement newspaper, in a deal worth £250m.

The move puts paid to earlier plans to float Loot, which in addition to its circulation of 120,000 in London boasts the 10th most visited website in the country, with over 430,000 registered users.

Just two months ago, when the boom in internet and media stocks was in full flight, company founder David Landau's plans to float the company were considered likely to set a record for attracting retail investors.

However, the recent wobbles in the hi-tech sector are believed to have killed off hopes of raising up to £350m through floatation, and led Mr Landau to look again at the merits of a trade sale., whose chief executive is Robert Bonnier, is believed to have won exclusive negotiating rights to buy the business after seeing off rival offers from internet competitors Freeserve and QXL.

The negotiations between Mr Bonnier, whose financial advisers are Singler & Friedlander, and Mr Landau, whose advisors are investment bank Broadview, could see a cash and shares deal finalised as quickly as by early May.