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BettorsChat
01-16-2007, 03:32 PM
Tuesday January 16, 6:39 am ET
By Miyoung Kim


LONDON (Reuters) - U.S. authorities detained two former directors and founding shareholders of NETeller Plc (London:NLR.L - News), the UK online money transfer firm said on Tuesday, adding it had requested the suspension of trading in its shares.

Stephen Lawrence and John Lefebvre were detained on Monday while traveling separately in the United States, NETeller said, becoming the latest victims of the U.S. crackdown on Internet gaming.

It said neither Lawrence nor Lefebvre had any current connection to the company other than as shareholders.

"The group has not received any communication or correspondence from any U.S. authority regarding this or any related matter," it said. "Pending clarification of the situation the board has sought immediate temporary suspension of NETeller's shares."

Shares in the Isle of Man-based company, which has grown fast with the rapid rise in online gambling, closed at 176 pence on Monday, valuing it at around 211 million pounds ($415.4 million).

The shares have fallen 60 percent since early September, hit by the arrests in the United States of executives from British companies involved in online sports betting and the passage in October of a U.S. law barring banks from transactions involving Internet gambling.

The passage of the U.S. law has led most operators to withdraw from the U.S. Internet gaming market.

"Today's news will obviously dent sector sentiment, however given that NETeller was the only company continuing to transact in the United States we think that any selloff in Playtech or 888.com shares could offer an excellent buying opportunity," Numis Securities said in a note.

Shares in online gaming group 888 Plc (London:888.L - News) dropped 2.9 percent to 125 pence by 1015 GMT and gambling software maker Playtech (London:PTEC.L - News) were down 0.7 percent to 277p.

Lawrence resigned as a non-executive director of NETeller in October 2006, having stepped down as non-executive chairman in May, while Lefebvre resigned as a non-executive director in December 2005.

Lawrence holds a 5.91 percent stake of NETeller through his vehicle Corvina, while Lefebvre holds 5.54 percent of the company via Eagle Medallion Fortress.