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Simon Nixon, the 39-year-old co-founder and chief executive of Moneysupermarket.com, has bought out his former partner’s shares for £162m in cash and paved the way for a flotation of the price-comparison website.
The site, which compares prices in four main areas – money, travel, insurance and motoring – has about 4m users, and makes money from introduction fees as well as advertising.
It is the largest financial services price-comparison site in the UK, with a 49 per cent market share, according to Hitwise, the internet research company.
Mr Nixon, who now owns 90 per cent of Moneysupermarket.com, is understood to have hired UBS to join its main adviser Credit Suisse to work on a flotation.
Moneysupermarket.com, which is based in Chester, is thought by some bankers to be worth as much as £1bn. This figure derives from the £100m or so Lord Milford Haven and his family trust collected from the sale of Uswitch.com to US media group EW Scripps for £210m last year.
In 2006, Moneysupermarket.com had earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of more than £30m, up about 40 per cent from the previous year, on revenues of about £100m, which were up from £68m.
The site was created by Mr Nixon and Duncan Cameron, an IT expert, in the late 1990s, although Mr Cameron, whose interest in the business was waning, left the company in 2001.
In the 1990s, the two set up an online mortgage-comparison site, later expanding and launching Moneysupermarket.com in 1999. Until Thursday’s deal, the two founders each held 50 per cent of the website’s voting shares.
Mr Nixon is understood to have been reluctant to float the company with Mr Cameron, who has not been involved in the company for five years, in spite of owning half the company. Mr Cameron will still hold 5 per cent. The planned flotation of Moneysupermarket.com comes as Tesco Personal Finance, a joint venture between the retailer and RBS, is understood to be preparing to launch an insurance-comparison site this autumn.
The price-comparison sector is already crowded, with sites including moneyexpert.com, moneyfacts.co.uk, and Confused.com, owned by Admiral, the insurance group.
Last month Admiral said it had received approaches for Confused.com and was reviewing its options for the business, which analysts estimated could be worth £600m-£700m.