Pia, a privately owned company that operates Japan's largest ticket agency, is planning an IPO by summer 2001 to finance development of a next-generation ticketing service that will relay customer orders via a digital network.

Pia, which also publishes Japan's most widely-read weekly entertainment magazine and sponsors its largest and most prestigious independent film festival, is also considering the introduction of employee stock options, still a relative rarity in Japan. The company's eventual goal is to list on the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

Pia currently controls 50% of the ticket agency market in Japan. Launched in 1972, Pia has built up its Tokyo listings magazine and ticketing service into a business empire that reported turnover of Y60.18bn ($590m) in the 1999 financial year. The company is currently developing a digital ticketing system that it plans to have up and running in time for the 2002 football World Cup.

Started in 1977, the Pia Film Festival has nurtured, through its awards and scholarship programme for first features, the careers of some of the most prominent Japanese directors on the independent scene, including Shun'ichi Nagasaki, Sogo Ishii, George Matsuoka and Ryosuke Hashiguchi.