Floors-2-Go races to a flotation

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The Independent Online

Floors-2-Go, the wooden flooring retailer that was started five years ago by a father-and-son team, yesterday raced to a stockmarket quotation via an accelerated listing that failed to leave the group enough time to appoint a finance director.

The vacancy, disclosed in an advertisement in yesterday's Financial Times, did not appear to deter investors, who chased the group's shares 11 per cent higher to 53.5p, giving it a valuation of £70m.

Robert Hodge, who founded the business in 1999 with his sons Robert and Richard, last week sold Floors-2-Go to Smart Motive, a cash shell, for an undisclosed sum. Mr Hodge, 60, who pocketed millions from the sale of his carpet business Lord Harris in the early 1980s, was forced to sell-up because he needs a quadruple heart-bypass.

Although the Hodge family has no involvement in running the business - the sons plan to invest their share of the proceeds in some US business opportunities - they remain shareholders in Floors-2-Go, with a combined 13 per cent stake. The shareholding, which they split three ways, was worth £9m at last night's closing price.

The Hodges built the business from a single store five years ago to 100 across the North-west, the Midlands and South Wales. From 2001 to 2003, the group's earnings before depreciation, interest and non-recurring costs increased from £346,000 to £4.6m on turnover up more than 400 per cent to £44m.

Keith Salisbury, the group's financial adviser at Zeus Capital, defended its decision to float without a finance director - the lynchpin of any company's relationship with its investors, let alone one that has just floated. He said the company had a replacement "lined up", implying that the vacancy advertised in the FT was something of a formality and that budding finance directors need not apply. The company's shortlist was drawn up from people "within the retail trade but outside the flooring industry", he said.

Commenting on the timing of the advertisement, Mr Salisbury said: "The family were very, very nervous about people being aware that the business was going to be sold."

Smart Motive, which was formed in December and raised £8m via two placings in January and March, chose to seek an accelerated listing for Floors-2-Go - whereby the purchase of a company is paid for by selling most or all of the equity to institutions quickly - because it was "efficient", Mr Salisbury added.

The group raised an additional £805,000 via a placing of 1.7 million shares to fund the additional costs of the acquisition and the move to AIM.