Sunday Retail News Roundup
The company behind Moonpig.com, the online greetings card website, is being circled by a clutch of private equity firms hoping to scupper the company’s float ambitions. Photobox, an online photo specialist, is understood to have quietly hired advisers at Wall Street bank Goldman Sachs to run an auction that could see it fetch between £400m and £450m, despite working on plans for a stock market listing. City sources said several bidders, thought to include US buyout groups TPG and KKR, have already lodged firm interest. A string of big UK companies have opted to sell-out rather than float on the stock market in recent months. Center Parcs, Trainline and United Biscuits have all sold themselves this year in multi-million-pound deals despite spending months working on listing plans.
An online men’s tailor is launching a £500,000 crowd-funding campaign to hire an army of inside-leg measurers. A Suit That Fits was launched in 2006 after a friend of founder David Hathiramani returned from travelling with a high quality and inexpensive suit from Kathmandu.
The British family business behind the Speedo and Berghaus sports and outdoor brands has notched up more than £2bn of sales for the first time in its history. Pentland, which is controlled by the Rubin family from its headquarters in Finchley, north London, also posted a leap in profits during the past year. The firm has recorded a 14pc lift in revenues to £2.2bn, largely thanks to sales of its Speedo swimwear products. Pre-tax profits shot up by 92pc to £164m.
Dame Vivienne Westwood, one of Britain’s most influential fashion designers, has seen profits dip despite a jump in sales at her eponymous fashion house after a tough year. The fashion house sold £32m worth of clothes, leather goods and perfume last year, an 8.4pc rise on the previous year, but pre-tax profits fell to £2.9m from £3.2m the year before. In accounts filed at Companies House, the business said that “2014 had been... challenging” and “margins are still under pressure due to the nature of wider retail conditions”.
Ocado is closing in on a deal with an international retailer that will allow the online grocer to expand outside the UK for the first time. Ocado revealed earlier this year that it had developed a system that allows it to sell its technology to overseas retailers. The company is due to report interim results this week, and although it is unlikely to confirm a deal, Tim Steiner, the chief executive, is expected to be confident on the prospects of striking a tie-up. Ocado has been linked with deals with Carrefour of France and Safeway of the US in the past. Any deal would be a major boost for investors who have backed the company through some turbulent periods since it was founded in 2000.
An American private equity company is in talks to back a £100m management buyout of TM Lewin, the 117-year-old shirtmaker. Sankaty Advisors, an offshoot of Bain Capital, is understood to be nearing a deal to help the bosses take out the 20% stake held by Coller Capital, which inherited the position when it took over Lloyds Banking Group’s troubled private equity portfolio. Sankaty is expected to provide debt and take a minority stake in TM Lewin. Sources said the management, led by 56-year-old Geoff Quinn, who has spent his working life at the company, would keep majority ownership. TM Lewin, a favourite among City workers, is one of Britain’s oldest tailors. It has had a shop on London’s Jermyn Street since 1898 and claims its founder, Thomas Mayes Lewin, was one of the first to put buttons down the front of a shirt. It now has about 100 stores in Britain and 60 overseas, including some in Australia, Malaysia and Singapore.
Discount diners’ club Tastecard is set to be swallowed by the owner of Pret A Manger. Taste Marketing, which operates Tastecard, is about to be bought by Bridgepoint Development Capital, part of the private equity firm that owns Pret, sources said. The investment firm has entered exclusive talks with the company’s owner, Dutch promotions firm Didix. Didix’s private equity owner, the Dutch buyout firm Waterland, hired Grant Thornton to sell the company earlier this year, despite buying it only last September. Taste made a post-tax profit of £1.9m last year, according to accounts filed at Companies House.
Sales rose across Richard Caring’s restaurant empire in 2013, including Annabel’s, Scott’s and The Ivy in London. Takings at Annabel’s, the Mayfair club frequented by the likes of Robert Tchenguiz and his brother Vincent, ticked up by 1% to £8.5m. Sales at Caprice Holdings, parent company of J Sheekey, Scott’s and The Ivy, grew 3% to £53.3m, while Mark Birley Holdings, which owns Harry’s Bar, cranked up sales by 2% to £20.6m. The trend is thought to have continued last year. Underlying earnings also rose, but Caprice and Mark Birley suffered pre-tax losses in 2013 — due, in part, to a punitive hedging device known as an interest rate swap, which was taken out at the peak of the boom. Caring is understood to have paid one of the high street banks £9m last September to break the swap, which will save his companies about £6m a year.
Mail on Sunday
Andy Bond's team at Pep & Co is just days away from what could be a world first. The former Asda chief executive will open his first clothing shop in Kettering on Wednesday, then after a two-week pause to test the IT system he will open another 49, around one a day, until the end of August in towns across Britain. It's being billed as 50 stores in 50 days and such a feat has never been achieved before from a standing start and in such a short space of time. Bond, who by coincidence has just turned 50, says in his deadpan style: 'A lot of people think we must be mad. But we feel very strongly that there's a gap in the market. 'We've got an experienced management team and we're supported by financially strong and supportive shareholders. If that's mad then, yes, we're mad,' he says. But they are well-funded madmen. Behind Bond sits Christo Wiese, the billionaire South African retailer who has been stalking Britain's retail sector for the past two years. He has already snapped up New Look. Pep & Co is the second front in this battle for the high street.
A merger of top bookmakers Ladbrokes and Coral, which last week announced that they were in talks, would lead to huge local duplication of shops all owned by the same firm, according to figures seen by The Mail on Sunday. Almost a third (29 per cent) of Ladbrokes shops have six or more Coral outlets within 20 minutes’ drive, show figures from The Local Data Company, which monitors shop locations around the country. Many are even closer, with 19 per cent of Ladbrokes shops having a Coral within just 200 yards.
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