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Flower sites' IPOs blossom

1-800-Flowers is the latest Internet florist to file for an initial public offering.

Call it the war of the roses.

1-800-Flowers.com today filed to go public. This move comes just a day after competitor Ftd.com announced its plans hit the public markets and a week after rival PC Flowers & Gifts filed its IPO plans.

Investors now enjoy a bountiful spring harvest from which they may pick an Internet florist play, analysts say.

800-flowers is looking to raise roughly $150 million, based on the company's IPO registration filing fee, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission. No shares or initial pricing range was listed.

The company, meanwhile, closed a private placement yesterday that raised $102.6 million. Softbank Technology Ventures contributed $40 million for a 6 percent stake. Other venture firms included Benchmark Capital and Forum Holdings.

1-800-flowers has seen its revenues grow 39 percent to $203.7 million for the nine-month period ending March 28, compared with a year ago. And during this time, the greatest growth came from its online sales, which nearly doubled to $30.2 million for the period compared with a year ago. Telephone business, which account for the largest portion of sales, grew 36.5 percent to $146.2 million for the nine-month period, and retail sales rose 19.3 percent to $27.2 million during the same period.

And although the company had operating profits during the past five years, the company generated an operating loss of $9 million for the latest nine-month period. 800-flowers last year posted operating profits of $2.1 million during the same period.

Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse First Boston and Wit Capital are the underwriters. The company will trade under the ticker "FLWS."

Among its IPO-filing competitors, 1-800-Flowers is looking to raise the most capital. Ftd.com is seeking $90 million, based on its registration filing fee, and PC Flowers is hoping for $46 million. Both companies have yet to file the number of shares they will offer and the pricing range.

Any future increases to the initial pricing range will be the true test of where investors are betting their money, said Richard Peterson, an IPO analyst and chief market strategist for Securities Data/Thompson Financial.

The market, overall, is still hot for Internet IPOs, he noted. To date, 54 Internet companies have launched an IPO this year, compared with 9 such deals during the same time last year.

And like the flood of health-related sites to either go public or file for an IPO this year, the florist industry seems to be joining the pack.