It’s been near impossible to peruse the financial news this year without seeing yet another headline celebrating the exploits of The Hut Group; the Manchester-based e-commerce conglomerate which this August announced backers could be about to cash in on a £4.5 billion floatation.
According to The Guardian, the company’s IPO will see between £500 million and £900 million of new shares sold to investors. For his part, co-founder Matthew Moulding – now the executive chairman – may receive up to £700 million under a clause which will pay out should the company reach a valuation of £7.25 billion by December 2022.
As well as a number of Manchester-based hotels, the group made it’s name through the development of a multitude of online retail sites, including Glossybox, Zavvi and Lookfantastic, as well as sports nutrition brand Myprotein and a number of beauty brands including ESPA and Illamasqua.
Through its THG Ingenuity branch, The Hut Group also provides logistics, marketing and IT support to some of the biggest businesses around, including Proctor & Gamble and Nestlé. At a time when many businesses are struggling to stay afloat, it has also just constructed a £750 million HQ near Manchester airport to house some of its 7,000 staff.
The group is one of a few genuine British unicorns, and its success marks a combination of savvy investments and a willingness to adapt. During lockdown it purchased two cargo planes for a reputed £80 million to ensure it could still ship goods, taking advantage of the lockdown-enforced trend for online shopping.
The IPO is another bold move. As the BBC reports, the global number of IPOs fell 19% in the first six months of 2020 due to the impact of coronavirus, making The Hut Group’s planned floatation the largest share sale in London this year so far, and the first UK listing since lockdown. “It has been a year of significant progress across the Group,” Moulding has said. “We have continued to make huge investments to develop our infrastructure, technology, brands and people…THG has an excellent platform for growth with an outstanding portfolio of prestigious brands.”
But how, exactly, did The Hut Group break out from the crowd to become a very British success story?
Founded by Matthew Moulding and John Gallemore with £500,000 in savings in 2004, The Hut Group initially set out to take advantage of a now-closed tax loop which allowed companies to avoid VAT on goods such as CDs and DVDs by selling them to the UK from the Channel Islands. With the rise of digital music and streaming, Moulding, now 48, saw that the future lay in online sales and the company added IWantOneOfThose.com, Lookfantastic, MyProtein, Zavvi, and Illamasqua to its portfolio.
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