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Funds platform AJ Bell plots London float

One of Britain’s biggest online investment platforms is drawing up plans for a London listing that will crystallise a huge fortune for the executive who launched it nearly 25 years ago.

Sky News has learnt that AJ Bell, which oversees assets worth nearly £40bn, held a beauty parade of investment bankers in the last few weeks to prepare for an initial public offering (IPO).

AJ Bell, which is named after its founder and ‎chief executive, Andy Bell, is unlikely to go public until the final quarter of this year at the earliest, according to insiders.

When it does so, it will turn Mr Bell into one of the stockbroking sector’s wealthiest ‎entrepreneurs, as well as yielding windfalls for some of the City’s leading fund managers.

Mr Bell owns 28% of the company, which is expected to be worth several hundred million pounds after it floats.

Woodford Investment Management, the firm headed by prominent fund manager Neil Woodford, ‎holds an 8% stake, while Invesco Perpetual is the biggest shareholder with 37%.

AJ Bell’s senior management team own most of the remaining shares.

Despite being privately owned, AJ Bell reports on its financial performance in similar detail to that which it will be obliged to provide when it floats.

According to results for the year to September, it now has almost 165,000 retail customers, and made pre-tax profit of £21.7m on revenues of £75.6m.

The company has launched a broader range of services, including an investment management offering and a portfolio of passive funds, in a bid to exploit growing demand from retail investors

Manchester-based AJ Bell does not provide personal investment advice to clients, but provides a platform for them to access a wide range of funds and execute their trading activity.

Mr Bell wrote in the company’s annual report late last year that the run-up to Brexit would see market volatility and uncertainty, with macroeconomic conditions “presenting both challenges and opportunities”.

When AJ Bell presses the button on a stock market listing, it will follow in the footsteps of ‎rivals such as Transact, whose parent company IntegraFin announced its flotation last month.

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Transact is smaller than AJ Bell ‎by funds under administration and number of customers.

A spokesman for AJ Bell declined to comment.

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