Animal magic nets pounds 40m for pet shop boys

NIGEL COPE

Three men who make their living selling exotic pets, including scorpions, tarantulas and chipmunks, were pounds 40m richer yesterday when their company made a spectacular debut on the stock market.

Shares in Pet City, which runs 35 out-of-town pet superstores, soared during their first day's dealings, valuing the company at almost pounds 90m.

The flotation means an instant bonanza for the founders who own almost half the company between them. Roger Pedder and Giles Clarke started the company in 1989 because they thought there was a gap in the market for the bulk buying of pet food and a fun, out-of-town, store. The shops sell pet food and pet accessories including doggy waistcoats and other fashion garments. Its "alternative" pets include snakes and iguanas, though its best seller is hamsters. A tarantula starter kit, including spider, case and heated pad to keep the arachnid warm in chilly winters, will set you back pounds 32.99. A chipmunk starter kit is bit more pricey at pounds 89.99.

However, the stores do not sell cats and dogs as the management feels it would be unfair to display them in a shop. Customers are directed to animal refuges and dogs homes instead.

The top management are not all pet-mad. Richard Northcott lives in a house full of dogs, cats and goldfish. He invested pounds 1m in the company in 1992. Three years later, that stake is now worth around pounds 15m.

Mr Clarke, who owns a similar amount of shares, likes pets but does not have any. "I live in rented accommodation and pets are not allowed," he said. He added that the three founders would not be selling any shares. "Obviously we're very pleased but we will not be selling any shares because we want to develop the business." The company plans to expand rapidly and to have 300 stores within eight years. It will open 17 stores next year, boosted by the pounds 20m of expansion capital it raised yesterday.

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