Pokerstars reveals hand with plans for GBP 1bn float

The world’s second-largest internet poker company is preparing to float on the London stock market before the end of this year with a value likely to exceed USD 2 billion (GBP 1.1 billion).

Pokerstars, which has been exploring an outright sale in recent months, is understood to be in talks with a number of investment banks, including HSBC and Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, about hiring them to work on the listing.

While no banks have yet been mandated, insiders said the company was gearing up for the process and was lining up advisers. “It’s early days, but this is a live situation. It’s up and running,” said one source, adding that there had been a number of meetings with banks.

Pokerstars has been working with NM Rothschild on a possible trade sale but now seems set on floating. It is not clear what role, if any, Rothschild would play if the internet gaming company pushes ahead with the plan to go public.

The business is 75%-owned by the founding Scheinberg family. Isai Scheinberg, who set up Pokerstars, is a former senior programmer for IBM. The family is intensely private but is said to be reconciled to the scrutiny that would go with being a public company.

The remaining shares in Pokerstars, which is headquartered in the Isle of Man, are mainly held by employees.

Party Gaming, the world’s biggest internet poker firm, is this week expected to unveil plans to launch an online backgammon game. It has registered the web address and a holding page is in place.

The news is likely to accompany the group’s announcement on Tuesday of its key performance indicators for the first quarter. A spokesman refused to comment.