Pubs group heads for early listing

FINAL touches are being made this week to JD Wetherspoon's flotation prospectus, leading to a full market listing for the pub operator.

Industry sources say the directors, headed by Tim Martin, flew to Scotland yesterday with representatives from Kleinwort Benson, the merchant bank. An investment roadshow for Edinburgh's large fund management community is planned.

A formal announcement of a placing of pounds 15m to pounds 25m of shares could be made next week. Wetherspoon has stated its desire to float before Christmas.

The flotation proceeds will be used to expand the company's 44-strong pub estate, much of which has been created from developing former car showrooms and shops.

The estate's foundation was laid in 1979, when Mr Martin gave up his career as a barrister and used money from the sale of his flat to buy the Wetherspoons pub in Muswell Hill, north London.

Wetherspoon's pubs have no juke boxes, feature at least one cheap beer, often below pounds 1 a pint, and have ornate decor. One of the best examples is Hamilton Hall, next to Liverpool Street station in London.

The company made pounds 2m before tax in the year to 31 July on pounds 21m of sales, largely achieved in London, where Wetherspoon has 37 pubs.

Shareholders include 3i, the venture capital group which injected pounds 1m of funds into the company in February. Stakes are also held by Scottish & Newcastle Breweries and by Tony Lowrie, chairman of HG Asia Securities, who holds 13.5 per cent.

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