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Virgin Mobile 'preps £1.3bn float'

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Everyone knows that Virgin Mobile will float. The only questions are: when and for how much? The Guardian today supplies the answers, courtesy of uncited sources: June and £1.3bn.

The market capitalisation is ambitious, by far the biggest amount trailed to date for the mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). Past analyst estimates of Virgin Mobile's worth have ranged from £500m to £1bn.

Virgin Mobile sub-contracts all the technical stuff to T-Mobile and concentrates on the branding, billing and customer relationships. And very successful it has been too, scooping up 3.6m customers, as of December end, 2003.

In January 2004, Virgin tidied itself up for float by bringing to an end an acrimonious dispute over revenue share with T-Mobile. T-Mobile will be keen to see a Virgin Mobile listing, as it gets 25 per cent of any equity value over £550m, capped at £100m - so long as the float is conducted within the next 2.5 years.

Virgin is also hiring advisers to design a long-term debt financing package, as - a fallback option, in case flotation conditions are poor, The Guardian says. But recent signs are promising with the return in 2004 of the tech IPO to Europe. Belgacom and Eircom were successful floats this year, and now Newport Networks and Neteller are joining the IPO queue. ®

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