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WebTV propels e-district to financial stratosphere

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A London-based 12-man outfit plans to become the latest to profit from the cyber-boom with a £100 million float next month. Three-year-old e-district.net will use the £15-20 million expected to be raised from the listing to expand into the US.

According to e-district's founder and CEO, Steve Laitman, the company is looking to raise the cash from floating just 15 per cent of the company. With trading due to start on 7 March, the AIM listing is expected to value the company at more than £100 million.

Laitman said around half the cash would be spent on marketing, and the other half to start offices in the US - one in New York and another on the West Coast. e-district's midas touch stems from its community Web site leisuredistrict.net. The site offers everything from shopping to animal adoption -- a 'sticky' section which coaxes users into returning to the site every day to care for their virtual pet.

It claims one million active users in January -– BBC Online had 2.8 million and yahoo.co.uk 6.1 million in December - with a total of 1.6 million registered users. It also claims a recent ABCe report – currently being studied by brokers but which should be available from Friday - counted 100 million page views for the month.

What's more, the company has "not spent a penny on advertising", according to Laitman, but grown purely by word of mouth. Fifty-eight per cent of the site's users are US-based, which Laitman attributes to America's early adoption of Web TV. Twenty three per cent of leisuredistrict.net's users, around 400,000 customers, access the site via interactive TV.

The flotation will propel the company from David to Goliath proportions. e-district.net made £81,000 profit in the ten months to December, and has around 12 staff in its Hendon office.

Does Laitman think the expected £100 million flotation a little high? "Not judging by the response we're currently getting from potential investors," he said. ®

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