WorldSpreads takes AIM for online success

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The Independent Online

The owners of Irish firm WorldSpreads, which include Ryder Cup-winning golfer Paul McGinley, are set to become the latest winners of the online gambling boom after the spread better unveiled plans to list on the London market.

The group, which launched in the UK late last year, is currently setting up a sports spread betting facility to coincide with this summer's football World Cup. WorldSpreads will then appoint advisors for a debut on the London Stock Exchange's Alternative Investment Market.

Around 50 per cent of the business is owned by management but the rest is in the hands of a number of external investors. As well as Mr McGinley, they include Kevin Moran, the former Manchester United and Republic of Ireland footballer, and Andrew "Chubby" Chandler, a sports agent whose clients include a number of golfers and Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff.

"AIM is a good market for this sort of stock and credible for gaming companies," said the chief executive and co-founder, Conor Foley. "We considered a dual listing in Ireland but we're now probably just going to do the sole listing."

Cash raised will help strengthen the balance sheet and fund growth, though Mr Foley has ruled out acquisitions. "There's always expansion opportunities overseas," he said.

As the popularity of online gaming and gambling has increased, so too has the number of companies joining the market. Rival spread better IG Index floated last year, with its debut price of 120p giving it a market value of £393m. However, some are concerned that a bubble may be forming.

Online poker specialist PartyGaming went straight into the FTSE 100 on its debut last summer, giving it a market value of more than £7bn. But its shares then dived over concerns about the legality of online gaming in the US, a crucial market for the company.