On-line auctioneer set for pounds 700m flotation

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QXL, THE on-line auctioneer, is considering floating on the London Stock Exchange, making its founder, the journalist and writer Tim Jackson, a multimillionaire.

"We have hired Credit Suisse First Boston for strategic and financial advice, including a possible float," said Cheryl Gale, QXL's spokeswoman.

Mr Jackson, who founded QXL in September 1997, yesterday said he had no comment to make on the company or its possible flotation. The company, based in west London, is thought to be worth over pounds 700m.

According to friends, QXL was started after Mr Jackson caught the entrepreneurial bug on a visit to the US. He decided that Europe needed a company similar to eBay, the US Internet auctioneer now capitalised at $18bn (pounds 11bn). Private investors, including Jonathan Bulkeley, chief executive of the Internet arm of Barnes and Noble, the US bookseller, provided the initial funding.

QXL has native-language websites in the UK, France and Italy. Each has a direct sales site, through which QXL markets personal computers and electrical goods. There is also an exchange site, the Internet equivalent of a car boot sale, at which browsers can auction their own possessions.

Mr Jackson has no executive role in the group, which is headed by Jim Rose, the American who set up the Internet site for Blackwells, the UK publisher and bookseller.

"Tim is very open about the idea of sitting back. Going forward it will be Jim who is growing the business on a day-to-day basis," said Ms Gale.

Apax Partners bought a pounds 12m stake in QXL in February. QXL yesterday sought to play down suggestions a float was imminent. "There's a whole range of fundraising options and partnership possibilities open to us. There's no timetable for a float yet."

Mr Jackson is a former foreign correspondent for The Independent.