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Fimatex IPO Gains in Rocky Week for French Net Stocks

Shares for the French online brokerage Fimatex gained 10 percent in its first half hour of trading Wednesday on the Nouveau Marché (NM), indicating a slight improvement in weakening investor confidence following the 25 percent decline that France's handful of Internet stocks suffered as a group last week.

A subsidiary of the bank Société Général, Fimatex aimed to raise 100 million euros ($96.45 million) via its issue of 13,000,000 new shares at an initial price of 15.7 euros ($15.14). The share, which started trading just 25 minutes before the market's close, finished at 17.30 euros ($16.68).

The operation -- delayed several days while the company awaited permission from the Bourse Operations Commission (COB), and by various technical problems -- was oversubscribed by a factor of 22, according to Fimatex. Société Général retains 43,616,000 shares, or 77 percent of the total 56,616,000 outstanding, the rest going to the public.

Fimatex reported 1999 profits of 2 million euros ($1.93 million) on operating revenue of 29.9 million euros ($28.83 million), claiming some 40,000 accounts in France and Germany. Its IPO was followed with particular interest, because it came on the heels of a week that saw MultiMania's share dip 40 percent while NetValue lost 35 percent. Artprice dipped 12 percent on the week, after regaining 11 percent on Friday.

Analysts here called the decline an overdue return to reality for Net stocks, pointing out that the last week's dotcom IPOs have produced much more modest gains than the spectacular advances made by MultiMania, up 240 percent on its first day earlier this month, and NetValue, up 200 percent on its February debut.

Fimatex is the third French online brokerage to go public, following BourseDirect and Self Trade.

Introduced in the midst of last week's correction, Self Trade's share closed Wednesday at 15.5 euros ($14.95), down 8.82 percnet, but still up about 21 percent from its opening price of 12.85 euros ($12.4). Self Trade recorded a 1999 loss of 4.9 million euros ($4.72 million) on sales of 9.1 million euros ($8.77 million).

After losing 11 percent last week, BourseDirect closed at 40.5 euros ($39.1), up 1.25 percent from Tuesday's close, but up still 200 percent from its introductory price of 13.5 euros ($13) for its November 1999 IPO.