Monday 09 June 2014 – The Times
Blue Inc, the clothes retailer aimed at fashion-savvy young men, is to brave the turbulent flotation market after confirming its intention to pursue an AIM listing that values the business at up to £60 million.
The company, founded in 1912 in Walthamstow as A Levy & Son, has announced plans to raise £15 million to fund its continuing store rollout plans while the initial public offering will also provide a partial exit for its owners, depending on demand.
In an ironic twist, Sir Stuart Rose, the former Marks & Spencer boss, stepped down as chairman of Blue Inc in April to lead a flotation of Fat Face, only for the listing to be pulled amid a lack of investor appetite.
A spokeswoman for Blue Inc said the “key differentiator” with other mooted retail IPOs was that the company not private equity-owned, often seen as a big negative by institutions considering whether to buy shares.
The current shareholders include Steven Cohen, its chief executive, who in 2006 led a buyout of the business from Daniel Levy, the chairman of Tottenham Hotspur and grandson of the founder. Other investors include Sir Stuart, David Reuben, the property billionaire, and Sir Harry Solomon, who founded Hillsdown Holdings, the food group.
Mr Cohen, a former chief executive of First Sports Group, has built the business from 28 stores in 2006 to 240, partly through acquisitions including the collapsed Officers Club chain in 2011. It has five overseas franchises in Malaysia and the Baltic states, and is looking at projects in the Middle East, Croatia, North Africa, Russia and the CIS region, and southeast Asia.
The former investment banker has outlined plans to double the number of stores to about 500 , while growing its online presence. It already has a pipeline of 12 further Blue Inc and Officers Club openings by the end of this year.
The retailer, which until the late 1990s traded under the Mr Byrite brand, claims to offer “affordable, fast fashion with an exclusive design”, aimed primarily at the under-25 male market. Its shops have an urban look, with plenty of iron, slate, bricks and rust.
Blue Inc, which is being advised on its IPO by Cantor Fitzgerald, has no debt and reported sales last year of £98.7 million and underlying earnings of £4.5 million.