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The Hut Group shares jump in London debut

London

THE Hut Group's shares soared more than 30 per cent in the company's first day of trading on Wednesday after batting away corporate governance concerns to seal the first major British initial public offering in seven years.

The company, which helps sell retail brands including Lookfantastic and skincare group ESPA, sold 376 million shares at 500 pence each to raise £1.88 billion (S$3.3 billion) in a float that valued the firm at £5.4 billion.

The biggest London stock market debut since Royal Mail plc in 2013 nets the company £920 million while shareholders, led by founder Matthew Moulding, will share gross proceeds of £961 million.

While The Hut Group's market debut gave a boost to what has been a terrible 2020 for new listings, with the Covid-19 pandemic driving European IPO volumes down to their lowest level in eight years, some investors have raised concerns over the structure of the deal.

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For example, Mr Moulding will remain both chairman and chief executive of the company, while the shares are to be issued in different "classes", allowing him voting powers vastly superior to most other London-listed companies.

These structural features mean that The Hut Group will not be granted a so-called premium listing and will not be eligible for the FTSE 100 despite being big enough for the blue-chip index.

The London Stock Exchange (LSE) declined to comment.

One source close to the deal said the LSE standard listing required high levels of governance and was equivalent to other European exchanges.

BlackRock, Henderson Global Investors, funds managed by Merian and the Qatar Investment Authority agreed to buy £565 million of the shares offered.

"There wasn't too much concern about this during the bookbuild - investors understand that the founder is a key part of the story," said a second source familiar with the transaction.

This source said that the strong IPO environment meant other companies could take heart from THG's success and also launch deals. "We expect it to be a busy fourth quarter," he added.

JP Morgan, Citi, Barclays and Goldman Sachs were global coordinators. HSBC, Jefferies and Numis acted as joint bookrunners. REUTERS

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