Visto plots float as it sues BlackBerry maker

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The software company which has just launched a patent suit against the maker of the BlackBerry emailer is planning a stock market flotation.

US company Visto, which launched the action against RIM last week, is talking to banks about going public next year.

Its chief executive, Brian Bogosian, said that a flotation would value the company at "billions of dollars". But analysts said that a price tag of up to $400m (£215m) for next year would be much more realistic. No banks have yet been appointed to advise on the float.

Visto makes software which can be incorporated within mobile devices, allowing owners to use email.

Unlike RIM, which manufactures and markets the BlackBerry branded hardware as well as providing the software, Visto sells the software to mobile phone network operators. Customers include some Vodafone subsidiaries in Europe, and AT&T Wireless.

Analysts estimate that, by the end of this year, around 560,000 people will subscribe to the Visto emailer software globally. RIM, which is the market leader, has around 5 million subscribers, followed by Good software, with about 800,000.

Mr Bogosian would not disclose details about the company's finances. But Dr Richard Windsor, an analyst at the investment bank Nomura, estimates that the company will generate revenues of $30m this year. On this estimate, the company would be loss-making.

With the mobile email market set to grow massively - there are two billion mobile phone users globally but only around 12 million mobile email users so far - he estimates that Visto subscriber numbers will more than double next year, which should push the company into the black.

Dr Windsor said: "We think that subscriber numbers have not developed as quickly as expected and, as a result, Visto may be thinking about raising some money. An [initial public offering] might be an option it is considering."

Mr Bogosian said that he was prepared to agree a licensing deal to settle the patent dispute with RIM. "If they came to us asking for a licence," he said, "that is a discussion we would have with them."