ONLINE fashion outlet Net-a-Porter is understood to be on the verge of being bought out by Richemont, the Swiss luxury goods group.
Richemont, which already owns 29 per cent of the clothing boutique, is reported to be in advanced discussions to acquire the remaining 71 per cent in a deal which would value Net-a-Porter at up to £350m.
A transaction would bring a windfall of as much as £50m for the company’s founder, former fashion journalist Natalie Massenet. She set up the London-based web operation 10 years ago and owns 18.2 per cent.
The buyout would give Geneva-based group Richemont the opportunity to sell its brands, which include Cartier and Alfred Dunhill, through the website. Net-a-Porter attracts around 2m women users per month.
One of the fastest-growing privately owned companies in Britain, Net-a-Porter racked up a 234 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to £10.1m in the year to 31 January 2009.
Beating the credit crunch and the recession, the firm recorded a 47.8 per cent increase in sales to £81.5m.
Net-a-Porter employs around 800 people in New York and the UK, featuring goods from the likes of Jimmy Choo, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney and Givenchy.
Speaking in an interview a year ago, Massenet told a newspaper she was always bullish on her start-up’s growth prospects despite early doubts from City investors.
She said: “There were a lot of unimaginative private equity people who said that women would never shop online... [But] I was completely confident. I never thought it wouldn’t work. I never once thought it wouldn’t be huge.”
Net-a-Porter and Richemont declined to comment last night.
City A.M. Reporter