Online casino firm makes market debut

The world’s largest online casino made its stock market debut today at a flotation price towards the lower end of expectations.

The world’s largest online casino made its stock market debut today at a flotation price towards the lower end of expectations.

Shares in 888.com were priced at 175p, giving the company a value of £590m (€864m) – at the bottom of the range of £546.1m (€800m) and £714.6m (€1.04bn) indicated by the firm earlier this month.

The caution comes after investor confidence was tested recently by poker giant PartyGaming’s warning that growth was slowing in the sector.

A price of £800m (€1.17bn) for 888.com’s initial public offering (IPO) had been seen prior to the comments from PartyGaming earlier this month.

Despite that blow to sentiment, 888 chief executive John Anderson said there had been plenty of appetite among institutions for the shares.

He added: “We are delighted that 888’s IPO has attracted such strong support among leading UK and European institutional investors.”

Conditional dealings in the stock got under way today with the price lifting to 181p in the opening minutes of trading. Trading will be open to retail investors next week.

The flotation will bring a windfall for 888’s Israel-based founders Avi and Aharon Shaked, who own about 70% of the company in a family trust and are selling a quarter of their stake today.

More than 20 million people are registered to use its portfolio of websites that also include Casino-on-Net, Reef Club Casino and Pacific Poker.

Casino-on-Net allows customers to play on a private table, a public table or on a group table with up to two friends, and players can communicate with each other during the game using a “chat box”.

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