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Trading started on Monday January 24, but twice had to be suspended because massive oversubscription triggered trading controls. Only five per cent of bids for up to 100 shares (total 9.429m shares) and none of the bids for more than 100 shares (total 23.149m shares) could be met.

The French company's shares more than tripled in price during the next day's trading and the opening price on January 26 stood at Fr394 (£36.58).

Created in January 1997 by Thierry Ehrmann, Artprice.com holds what it claims is the world's most important databank of art auction results, which details the purchase prices since 1987 of almost two million works of fine art by 170,000 artists.

The database has been built up through Artprice.com's acquisitions of ADEC/Art Price Annual and the American Falk's Art Price Index and now covers more than 2200 auctioneers in 40 countries.

Last October LVMH and Phillips owner Bernard Arnault acquired a 20 per cent stake in the company through his specialist Internet investment fund Europ@web. In 1999 Artprice.com also acquired Xylogic, a Swiss company specialising in the development of software packages dedicated to the art market and to auctioneers (Phillips, Sotheby's, Christie's in Geneva, among others).