Belfast E-tailer Plans £300m Float This Year

BLACKSTAR, the Belfast internet video retailer, plans a stock market flotation before the end of the year in a move market sources said could see it valued at more than £300m.

One of the main shareholders in the company is Ryanair chairman David Bonderman, and it is chaired by former A&L Goodbody boss James Osborne, who is also a director of various Dublin companies.

BlackStar is about to send out its business expansion plan to investment banks this week as part of the flotation process. The response from investment banks would give an indication of likely valuations for the Belfast company.

It is planning to carry out the initial public offering (IPO) on the London and Nasdaq stock markets, but may also consider a listing on Dublin.

The company sells videos and DVDs (digital video discs) and has more than 50,000 titles in stock in its Belfast facility. It models itself on the hugely successful book and CD e-tailer (electronic retailer) Amazon.com.

BlackStar (www.blackstar.co.uk) is the market leader in the online British video sales market. Sales of videos in Britain are running at close to stg£1bn a year, with the market growing at a rate of around 10pc annually.

It is estimated that between 30pc and 40pc of video and DVD sales will be online in the next three to four years, with BlackStar aiming to capture between stg£120m and £200m of this.

Sales and marketing director Jeremy Glover was reluctant to reveal current sales levels at BlackStar, but did say that revenues had doubled every month for the last three months. The new year had not heralded a fall-off in sales, while the company sells in 118 countries.

The company had been profitable up until recently, when it began to pump profits into a much expanded marketing budget.

Last August, BlackStar received funding of $6m from Mr Bonderman’s Texas Pacific Group and UK venture capital outfit Atlas to give the two groups roughly one-third of the equity.

Along with founders Mr Glover, Tony Bowden and Darryl and Brian Collins, the company is also part-owned by its staff, who hold 15pc of the equity.

It has a workforce of 75 but is currently recruiting another 25 to 30 people and moving to a new 14,000 sq ft premises in Belfast’s city centre in February.

Asked about the demise of publicly quoted firms in the North, Mr Glover said BlackStar provided a good opportunity for the North to show it was shifting from an emphasis on traditional industries to the new e-economy.

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