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Hut Group IPO launches at a premium

The Hut Group's IPO today looks set to be a well-received one if early demand is any guide, with the shares opening sharply higher at 608p. The new shares are being made available by existing investors for the price of 500p a share, valuing the business at around £5bn.

The largest shareholding is private equity owner KKR, who are selling their entire stake worth £448m, which by some measure does make one question their reasoning for exiting the business completely. KKR initially took out their stake in 2014, paying £100m for 20% of the business.

The new money of £920m will be used to pay down the company’s debt levels, which have risen quite sharply in the last two years, with net debt rising to £514m at the end of 2019, from £294m at the end of 2018.

The Hut Group is an online retail business which operates brands like Lookfantastic.com and ESPA, which is a luxury skin and body care company. Its retail brands aren’t its only unique selling point; the company also has a technology and operating platform called THG Ingenuity which is used by big blue-chip corporate brands like Nestle, Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson for their e-commerce operations.Ingenuity is a hosting and deployment solution, with 16 distribution centres across five continents, as well being a CRM solution.

In terms of revenues, the company booked £1.1bn in 2019, a rise of 24.5% on the year before, with management looking to target revenue growth of a similar amount on a pro-rata basis. More importantly, the company is profitable in terms of EBITDA, however higher costs and lower margins have seen those numbers start to come down in the last couple of years. For the current year, projections are for revenues to rise to £1.3bn, while EBITDA, according to consensus estimates, is expected to slide back from £74.5m in 2019 to £65.6m at the end of the current year.

As the biggest IPO since Royal Mail was launched back in 2013, The Hut Group will be closely scrutinised in terms of not only early demand, but also the sustainability of the business model. Time will tell as to whether the valuation is a solid one, or whether KKR has made the right move in selling out of their entire stake.

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