Consumer firms to spark next flotation frenzy

Michael Bow
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BRITISH department store House of Fraser is on the cusp of appointing advisers to explore plans for a float of the chain, amid a resurgence in consumer–focused brands looking to list in London.

The chain is thought to have held a beauty parade of investment banks, laying plans for a £300m float after the Christmas trading period, which is expected to build on the firm’s record sales last year.

A House of Fraser spokeswoman said the company did not comment on market speculation.

The company joins a host of consumer companies, including fast food delivery service Just-Eat, sofa chain DFS, theme park operator Merlin Entertainments and online retailer The Hut Group, mulling plans to list in London early next year.

Just-Eat, the online food delivery service, is also inching closer to a market float after sitting down with bankers to explore plans.

Just-Eat did not comment.

The float frenzy comes on the back of a resurgent market for consumer and retail stocks, with the closely watched Eurostoxx 600 Retail index up by 21.2 per cent over the past year versus the benchmark Eurostoxx 600 index up 14.2 per cent.

The healthy pipeline of consumer-led IPOs follows a similar explosion in property-focused offerings this year, which has seen Crest Nicholson, Countrywide and Foxtons all raise money.

Last week, the UK’s biggest sofa chain DFS was the latest high street name to be linked with a London float.

Its private equity backer Advent International, which bought the company in June 2010, is understood to have talked to investment banks on plans to exit the firm through an initial public offering.

Merlin Entertainments, which owns Madame Tussaud’s, is also on the cusp of launching an initial public offering after achieving strong growth last year. The Hut Group, which owns, is also considering launching a public offering of shares.