Sir Richard Branson's train ticket retail business Train-line could be on course for a £200 million stock market flotation, it was reported yesterday.
The Virgin Group operation, which allows travellers to plan journeys and book tickets for anywhere in the UK, is thought to have appointed investment banks Investec and ABN Amro to advise it on a listing.
According to one report the decision to consider a flotation followed reports earlier this year that Virgin was planning a sale of the business, which has attracted interest from several private equity firms, including US company TA Associates.
It said the appointment of Investec and ABM Amro was a signal the Virgin Group was "seriously considering" a flotation as part of a "dual track process" although it is under-stood that the private auction of Trainline has now reached the second stage of the bidding process.
Virgin Group declined to comment on the report.
Any flotation would be the second major listing of an internet-based company this year after estate agency web-site Rightmove.co.uk floated with a market valuation of £425 million. The company has since seen its market capitalisation rise to more than £450 million.
Trainline was created in 1997, it has more than eight million registered users and is expected to make a £12 million profit next year. It accounts for 14 per cent of all Intercity ticket sales.
The Virgin Group has an 80.5 per cent holding in the business while rival transport firms National Express, which owns 14 per cent, and Stagecoach, which has a 5.5 per cent stake, own the remainder of the business.