Software firm braves market turmoil to float

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FINANCIAL OBJECTS, a software supplier which is just three years old, looks set to become the first major company to float on the London Stock Exchange since the start of market turmoil when it completes its listing next month.

The company, which supplies software to banks, yesterday announced plans to float at the beginning of December. It is likely to fetch a price tag of around pounds 100m.

The move is a vote of confidence in London's fledgling information technology sector, which has ridden a rollercoaster ride since it was created in January. The year started with a buying frenzy which saw most IT stocks double in price before falling again when financial markets started falling.

"We had reached a position where we were ready to float in the fourth quarter but held off," David Gutteridge, the finance director, said yesterday. "Now we have decided to push the button."

Financial Objects was founded by Roger Foster, an experienced IT entrepreneur who founded the Apricot computer brand before selling it to Mitsubishi, the Japanese conglomerate, in the early 1990s.

In 1995 Mr Foster sold his banking software company, called ACT, to Misys, the software group which recently became the first IT stock to join the FTSE 100 index.

Later that year he founded Financial Objects with backing from Thompson Clive & Partners and Schroder Ventures, the venture capitalists, who retain a 42 per cent stake in the company.

Four executive directors control 40 per cent, while the remaining shares are distributed among its 200 staff.

The group, which is being advised by Goldman Sachs, is expected to fetch a generous valuation.

In the six months to 30 June it made pre-tax profits of pounds 1.6m on revenues of pounds 10.3m.