Jessops revives plans for £180m flotation

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The Independent Online

Jessops, the camera retailer, yesterday revived its plans for a stockmarket listing in a move expected to value the group at £180m. The photographic specialist last braved the equity markets four years ago, when it pulled its flotation at the 11th hour due to a lack of demand. Instead, the group was sold in a secondary buyout to ABN Amro's private equity arm.

Success this time round would value the stake held by the 14-strong management team at around £9m. Derek Hine, the chief executive who joined six years ago, said he planned to cash in "some" of his shareholding, worth up to £2m, but added: "Every senior executive going forward is keeping the majority of their stake."

Jessops, founded 69 years ago, is hoping to cash in on the digital revolution that is sweeping photography. Digital camera sales outstrip traditional film camera sales at a rate of 3:1, yet less than one-third of the UK population owns a digital camera. The research group Mintel says the digital market will be worth about £1bn by 2009, almost double its current value.

ABN Amro acquired Jessops from Bridgepoint Capital in October 2002 in a deal worth £116m after Bridgepoint balked at the prospect of another failed flotation attempt. The Dutch venture capitalist firm owns around 75 per cent of the current equity, with the management team holding the bulk of the rest. The business, which made underlying profits of £17m last year on sales of £287m, has £130m of net debt. Analysts estimated a flotation would value the group at around £180m.

Jessops does not plan to raise new money from the listing, but said cash raised would be used to pay off its investors and pay down debt. The group, which has 262 UK stores, sees scope for more than 400 sites. Mr Hine said the roll out was self-funding from cash the group generates. "The market is continuing to grow, driven by digital," he said.

Jessops, which has appointed NM Rothschild as its sponsor, plans to appoint a new chairman and a string of non-executive directors when it publishes its prospectus this month. Tim Brookes, its non-executive chairman, was part of the management team that bought out the Jessops family in 1996, and would not be considered independent, Mr Hine added.

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