118 118 sets sights on listing this year

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118 118, The Number, the UK directory enquiry business known for its iconic two runners advertising campaign, could be set for a stock market flotation this year.

The Number’s US parent company InfoNXX has asked Goldman Sachs to prepare the business for a listing. People close to the situation cautioned the process was at an early stage and that the flotation would likely come towards the latter half of the year.

InfoNXX, the world’s largest provider of directory assistance services, will hope to replicate the success of the Yell Group flotation. Since the directories business was floated in July 2003, its shares have risen 86.3 per cent.

The Number, wholly owned subsidiary of InfoNXX, which owns 118 118, became the market leader following the deregulation process when the old “192” directory enquiries opened to competition in 2003.

The company has dominated the market despite charging premium rates, making it the UK’s most popular service, far ahead of BT Group’s 118 500.

It won market share on the back of a high-profile TV and press campaign featuring identical runners sporting 1970s-style long hair and moustaches.

Since 2000, the number of calls InfoNXX handles has increased ten-fold. It now provides 45 per cent of UK directory assistance calls for a range of information including private and business telephone listings, movie listings and train schedules.

InfoNXX is a private company set up by chief executive Robert Pines, an investment banker, in 1991. InfoNXX and Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

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