Sports Internet targets property

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The Independent Online
THE TEAM of football entrepreneurs behind Sports Internet Group, one of this year's biggest stock market successes, is backing a move into estate agency.

Property Internet, which shares a Paddington office with Sports Internet, is planning to raise pounds 1.45m with a flotation on the Alternative Investment Market. The company has been set up to acquire a property website company in much the same way as Sports Internet has been buying up sporting websites.

Property Internet is run by Neil McClure, who is also chairman of Silver Shield, the company that owns Swansea City Football Club. Another investor is Keith Harris, the former HSBC investment banker who gained a reputation as one of soccer's leading deal-makers.

It was Mr McClure who introduced Mr Harris to Chris Akers, the former head of Leeds United's owners Leeds Sporting and now chairman of Sporting Internet. Mr Harris is also a non-executive director of Sporting Internet. Jeremy Fenn, who worked with Mr Akers at Leeds Sporting, is chief executive of Sports Internet.

Sports Internet, which floated in March, has been a runaway success, the shares rocketing from 79p to 297.52p to value the company at pounds 82.5m. A group of private investors, including Mr Akers, who own almost 50 per cent of Sports Internet, has made a paper profit of around pounds 30m.

Sports Internet is currently working on its pounds 17.5m takeover of Surrey Group, the bookmaker with a licence to operate a tax-free betting service from Alderney. One of its previous acquisitions, PlanetFootball, whose website enables punters to bet on the outcome of football matches, is said to be in great demand. Market sources suggest that monthly visits to the site could soon top 1 million.

Property Internet will be hoping to repeat this pattern of successfully acquiring web-based companies. It is hoping to tap into an estate agency industry that last year generated income of more than pounds 3bn but which, it believes, has fundamentally changed little since the Second World War.