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Hotel Chocolat Plans London IPO to Bolster Expansion Drive

  • Luxury chocolate retailer aims to raise 50 million pounds
  • IPO said likely to value company at about 150 million pounds

Hotel Chocolat Group Ltd. announced plans to list shares on London’s Alternative Investment Market as the U.K. luxury chocolate retailer seeks funds to accelerate its growth.

The company will offer new shares and existing shareholders will also sell some stock, together raising about 50 million pounds ($71 million), Hotel Chocolat said Wednesday. The offering will take place in the second quarter and is expected to value the business at about 150 million pounds, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Angus Thirlwell

Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Founded in 1993, Hotel Chocolat has grown to become one of the U.K.’s best known purveyors of luxury chocolate. The retailer now has 84 stores and about 500,000 online customers. Money raised in the IPO will be used to expand its store network, manufacturing facilities and improve the digital offering, the company said.

“The business and the brand has reached the point where it has come of age and it is a suitable juncture for us to float the business,” said co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Angus Thirlwell.

The company’s immediate focus is to expand in the U.K., though it is also “very ambitious” internationally, said Thirlwell, whose father was one of the co-founders of the Mr Whippy ice cream brand. Hotel Chocolat sells from three locations in Copenhagen.

‘Emotional Experience’

The company is seeing “healthy” like-for-like sales growth in its stores and stronger increases online, Thirlwell said. Sales were 81 million pounds in the year ended June 28. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization were 7.9 million pounds.

Hotel Chocolat competes more actively with beauty brands and department stores than other chocolate brands, the CEO said. To maintain an air of exclusivity, the company has declined opportunities to distribute through grocers, though the brand is available at John Lewis department stores.

“We are very careful about the channels we choose,” Thirlwell said. “We understand the importance of the way it’s offered. High-end chocolate is a very emotional experience and the way it’s bought can influence all of that.”

Liberum Capital Ltd. is advising on the IPO.

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