US group chooses to list in London

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The Independent Online

A New York group plans to float on the London Stock Exchange after America's stringent regulation of public companies put a domestic listing out of its reach

Planet Group, founded by a former lawyer in 1999, processes payments for a number of organisations. It originally focused on payment services for online retailers but has since broadened its client base to include banks and "bricks and mortars" retailers, among others.

Clients are understood to include the Dorchester Hotel in London, Standard Chartered bank in Hong Kong and department store Saks Fifth Avenue in New York.

Planet will announce tomorrow that it will start trading on the Alternative Investment Market on 20 March and expects to be valued at around £25m. Money raised will help fund the company's expansion.

Philip Beck, Planet's founder, chairman and chief executive, said the group had not been considering a listing on the junior market until last summer.

"We went to see the management of AIM last July and we were impressed. It has the right amount of regulation for a growing company.

"There's a much higher bar right now to raising money in the US. There's a lot more expense and regulation under Sarbanes-Oxley. I wouldn't rule [a New York] listing out in the future, but it's not feasible for companies our size to go through that process and handle all that continuing regulation."

Mr Beck, who is British but lives and works in the US, added that a London flotation was suitable because Planet was "a global company" with various international operations.

Ever since Wall Street was hit by a wave of accounting scandals earlier this decade, such as the collapse of energy giant Enron, the US authorities have cracked down on the financial community. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, in particular, has put up compliance costs for US-listed firms.