Public listing for Czech online gambling firm

Plans afoot to list on Prague and Warsaw exchanges.

The Czech land and online gambling group Fortuna Entertainment Group NV's plans to list publicly in Prague and Warsaw valued the group at up to Euro 230 million ($319 million) this week, reports the Bloomberg business news service.

The company will start book-building on October 11 for the sale of a 35 percent stake, with a final price set around October 20.

Fortuna is owned by Czech-Slovak financial group Penta Investments Ltd., which revealed last month that it plans to sell shares in public and private placements in Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia by the end of 2010, retaining the majority stake for itself.

Fortuna’s full-year net income has been estimated to total about Euro 17 million, and the price-to-earnings ratio is around 16, the news service calculates. That compares favourably with William Hill (9.33), Ladbrokes (9.57), Codere (15.41) and Paddy Power (17.46).

According to preliminary unaudited figures released earlier this year, the company's revenues from operations in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland, reached Euro 338 million, confirming its substantial market position in the region.

The company has been extending the reach of its internet gambling interests, mainly in Eastern Europe, and the funds raised in the listing will be dedicated to further development and expansion.

The results reflected a strong contribution of fast-growing revenues from online betting, introduced by Fortuna for the first time in 2007 in Slovakia and in 2009 in the Czech Republic.

Czech gambling laws made internet betting legal in 2009, while online gambling in Slovakia became legal a few years earlier, in 2007. The Polish legalisation situation is still fluid, although Fortuna has indicated that it is well prepared and ready to enter the online sports betting market in that country in the event of positive changes.

Fortuna’s chief financial officer Michal Vepřek reported that the group recorded a 12 percent growth rate over the past year of operations, noting that this was despite estimates that local Czech operators control only half of the country’s internet sports betting industry.

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