LONDON, Jan 22 (Reuters) - U.S. private equity fund KKR has bought British rail ticket website thetrainline.com from buyout firm Exponent for an undisclosed sum, derailing its planned London stock market listing, the funds said on Thursday.
Trainline was one of the first companies of the year to announce an initial public offering (IPO), which a source familiar with the deal said could have valued the firm at more than 500 million pounds ($756.5 million).
Exponent, which also owns meat-alternative company Quorn and handbag firm Radley, is in the process of listing British tool and equipment-hire business HSS Hire, which announced the price range for its IPO on Thursday.
Last year, several companies that had targeted stock market debuts were bought instead. In September, Danish telecoms group TDC snapped up Norwegian cable operator Get AS for 12.5 billion Danish crowns ($1.95 billion).
Private equity firms generally prefer to sell a company rather than list it on the stock exchange because it allows them to exit an investment quickly.
Established in 1999, Trainline was bought by Exponent in 2006 for about 160 million pounds from a consortium which included Virgin, Stagecoach and National Express . Its website has 20.8 million visits a month.
Trainline is the most downloaded travel app in the United Kingdom. Adjusted core earnings (EBITDA) across the firm's branded businesses rose to 21 million pounds in 2014, up from 14.3 million pounds in 2013.
KKR has invested more than $13 billion of equity in technology companies since 2000.
($1 = 0.6610 British Pounds)
$1 = 6.4221 Danish Crowns Reporting by Freya Berry; editing by David Clarke