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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 January, 2005, 11:07 GMT
Bets on for poker site to float
At peak times, the online poker room has 65,000 punters playing
The world's biggest online poker firm PartyGaming is tipped to float on the London Stock Exchange, a move that could put it into the FTSE 100 index.

The company, formerly iGlobalMedia, has appointed two investment banks to advise it on "strategic options".

One of the options being discussed is a flotation on the London Stock Exchange, valuing the group at between 3bn and 5bn, the BBC has learned.

Its PartyPoker.com gaming room, set up in 2001, has about five million users.

Other options under discussion with investment banks Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein (DrKW) and Investec Securities will be merger and acquisition opportunities and/or raising money on the debt markets. "We look forward to working with the teams at DrKW and Investec in taking the group to the next stage of its development," said chief executive Richard Segal.

Game on

There has been a revival of investor interest in internet businesses as firms recover from the high-tech slump of the last few years.

Rival poker site Paradise Poker was recently snapped up by UK-listed online gambling group Sportingbet, a move which sent Sportingbet's shares soaring by 64%.

If PartyGaming does decide to float, its market value will top that of betting stalwart William Hill.

The Gibraltar-based company was set up in 1997, with PartyPoker.com launched in 2001.

A small group of investors are behind the firm, including US lawyer Ruth Parasol and Indian software expert Anurag Dikshit.

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