Trainline, the rail and coach ticket booking platform, is making tracks towards a £1bn stock market listing that could take place within months.
Sky News has learnt that an initial public offering of the company, which is owned by the investment giant KKR, has emerged as its preferred option following a series of approaches from rival private equity firms.
Sources said that KKR was preparing to expand a syndicate of investment banks to work alongside JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley on the London flotation, although its timing will depend upon market conditions after the UK’s departure from the EU is finally resolved.
They added that an attempt to go public could come as soon as this summer.
If successfully completed, a public offering of Trainline shares would come four years after an earlier attempt to list the company was abandoned in favour of its sale to KKR.
Under the stewardship of Clare Gilmartin, the former eBay executive who was brought in to run Trainline in 2014, it has consolidated its position as Britain’s biggest travel booking app while expanding its sales to customers in well over 150 countries.
A private sale of the business remains a possibility, although insiders said KKR would only elect to pursue that route if a bidder reflected Trainline’s growth prospects in the price it was prepared to offer.
A £1bn flotation of Trainline would hand big windfalls to KKR, a former owner of Boots The Chemist, and the company’s management team.
KKR paid roughly £500m for the business, since when it has expanded significantly in international markets as well as growing its UK market share.
Going public would nevertheless come at a time of significant scrutiny of Britain’s rail network, with Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, under continuing pressure over the industry’s franchising system.
The proliferation of fares across Britain’s rail network has frequently infuriated passengers but has benefited Trainline, which saw sales jump in 2017 to £2.4bn.
The company was previously owned by Exponent Private Equity.
In a statement, a Trainline spokeswoman said: “Trainline is an exciting tech business with a great future ahead of it, and it is our mission to make rail and coach travel easier for customers everywhere.
“We have expanded our business across Europe, now operating in 40+ countries, and are very focused on our plans to grow the business further.
“We have no fixed sale plans at this time.”