The video games publisher Codemasters is racing towards a London stock market flotation that will crystallise a multimillion-pound fortune for its bosses and see it recruit a former Candy Crush-maker director as its chairman.
Sky News has learnt that the Warwickshire-based company, which develops the official range of Formula One games, is targeting a £280m valuation in an initial public offering (IPO) that will take place in the coming weeks.
While Codemasters has said that it aims to raise £15m from the sale of new shares, the £280m price tag has yet to be publicly disclosed.
Gerhard Florin, a former Electronic Arts executive who also served on the board of Candy Crush-maker King Digital Entertainment, has been drafted in as Codemasters’ new chairman.
The float will come during a flurry of activity for the video games sector as companies try to cash in on the booming demand for new products on digital devices.
Team17, the Yorkshire-based group behind the Worms games series, recently unveiled plans for a £230m listing, while Sumo, another competitor, is trading with a market value of around £200m.
Codemasters is one of the oldest names in Britain’s video games industry and its London Stock Exchange debut will come more than a decade after it aborted an earlier plan.
Reliance Big Entertainment, the company’s Indian owner, is expected to reduce its stake from just over 90% to about 40% by selling part of its shareholding.
Frank Sagnier, Codemasters’ chief executive, holds a stake worth approximately £12.5m at an overall valuation of £280m.
Founded in 1986 by brothers David and Richard Darling, the company originally made games for the Commodore PC and Spectrum console.
Now employing 500 people, it is focused on the development and production of racing games, such as DiRT Rally and Micro Machines.
Codemasters’ founders sold their remaining stake in 2007 to Balderton Capital, an investor in technology-led companies, while Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street bank, also took a financial interest in the company.
The move was designed to be the precursor to a flotation but was abandoned when it became clear that Codemasters needed to refinance its then-indebted balance sheet.
Codemasters Group Holdings’ latest set of annual accounts filed at Companies House, which cover the year to 31 March, highlight a “golden era of growth” for the gaming industry.
“New platforms and devices, greater accessibility and a variety of business models are all contributing to reach more gamers, anywhere and at any time,” the company said.
“The prospect of (Artificial Reality/Virtual Reality), the growing popularity of competitive gaming with eSport, the addition of engaging digital services and the proliferation of new platforms and technologies enabling more social activity and more immersion will lead to continued growth for many years to come.”
Codemasters’ accounts cited research estimating that the global video games market will be worth $119bn by 2019, with the eSports sector likely to be worth $40bn by 2020.
A spokeswoman for the company declined to comment on Thursday.