The party's about to begin for PartyGaming's millionaires

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The Independent Online

PartyGaming, the world's biggest online poker company which is aiming to join the FTSE 100 next week, appears to have shrugged off recent criticism and courted strong demand for its shares.

PartyGaming, the world's biggest online poker company which is aiming to join the FTSE 100 next week, appears to have shrugged off recent criticism and courted strong demand for its shares.

Market sources said yesterday the offer of shares in PartyGaming was three and a half times oversubscribed and shares are expected to be priced between 115p to 120p, well within its original indicative range of 111p to 127p.

Spread betting companies, who had previously indicated that PartyGaming would have to lower its price because of low support for the company, raised their expectations of where they expect the shares to trade. Cantor Index predicts shares will trade at 121p to 125p shortly after its debut, while IG Index has a 116p to 120p price range.

The company is due to float on the London Stock Exchange on Monday and the shares will be given their final listing price on Sunday evening.

PartyGaming's management, led by its chief executive Richard Segal, who has been given share options worth £50m, has managed to convince the City to back the company, during a two-week roadshow. It has already had to reduce its initial valuation estimates from £5.5bn to about £4.7bn, after fund managers baulked at the price demanded for a company whose business is deemed illegal in its main market. US authorities consider internet gambling illegal and there are fears that PartyGaming's high-profile float may spark tougher action in the US against companies in the sector.

There had been concern that PartyGaming may have to knock its price down even further to satisfy fund managers concerned about regulatory risk attached to the company.

Its four founding shareholders will pocket more than £1bn between them by selling shares to float the business. No new funds are being raised, another issue of contention with fund managers, who prefer to see their investments go towards the future of the business, rather than furthering personal fortunes.

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