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Made.com set for £1bn London float

Made.com is set to confirm its initial public offering in London after the Covid-19 pandemic helped accelerate growth.

An IPO for the online furniture retailer, co-founded by entrepreneur Brent Hoberman, will see some existing investors sell shares but also raise new money, and could value the business at anything up to £1bn, according to people briefed on the process.

An announcement could come as soon as next week, just days after private equity company Electra said it would float casual dining chain TGI Fridays and shoe retailer Hotter.

A new corporate holding company for Made was established last month with Li Ning, the other co-founder, as its controlling shareholder and former Superdry and John Lewis executive Susanne Given as chair. Hoberman will not be a director of the quoted company.

The float would follow the successful debuts of online greetings card specialist Moonpig, online vintners Virgin Wines and “recommerce” website Music Magpie, which floated on London’s junior market last month. All have seen sales accelerate as a result of the pandemic, while shares in Virgin and Moonpig remain well ahead of their IPO prices.

Although Made.com does have a small number of showrooms in key cities, chief executive Phillippe Chainieux said it would remain an online operator. “Every single shopping experience begins online and ends online. Stores are part of the digital experience but not the start or end of it”.

The company is also unenthusiastic about selling via wholesale or concession models. “We are vertically integrated — there is no one in between us and the factory or us and the consumer,” said Chainieux.

Along with other players in the highly fragmented furniture market, Made.com has found that increasing numbers of consumers have become prepared to buy large, high-ticket items online.

“The last 12 months have been an inflection point. We now have a broader customer base both geographically and demographically,” Chainieux said, noting that the company’s core millennial customers were increasingly being targeted by larger brands.

DFS, one of the UK’s biggest sofa suppliers with 118 showrooms, reported that digital revenues grew 66 per cent in the six months to December 27 and now account for a quarter of the total.

Made.com was founded in the UK in 2010 and began expanding into Europe five years later. In the year to December 2019, the last for which accounts are available, it achieved sales of £212m, an increase of 22 per cent from the previous year.

Operating losses that year were £18.7m though Chainieux, who is also chief executive of French dating website Meetic, said Made.com was now profitable before deducting depreciation and amortisation charges “in all core geographies”.

“The UK has been profitable for quite a long time now,” he added.

In recent months it has been investing heavily in infrastructure. It will shortly open a new distribution centre at the London Gateway container port in Essex that will allow it to import products for the UK market separately to those destined for European consumers and avoid post-Brexit duties and red tape.

Along with Hoberman and Li, other existing investors include Amadeus, venture capital group Partech and Archimedia, the holding company for Seattle Coffee Company founder John Hunt.

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