Ocado offers shoppers chance to buy into £1bn flotation

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The Independent Online

Ocado is to offer hundreds of thousands of customers the chance to buy shares in the online grocer ahead of an expected £1bn flotation next month.

The internet specialist yesterday wrote to customers, inviting them to become shareholders at the same price as City institutions if it decides to push ahead with the float.

Shoppers who will have spent more than £300 with Ocado between 1 January and the date it unveils its "intention to float" will be eligible to each buy shares worth up to about £12,000.

Up to 15 per cent of its total shares are likely to be made available to customers. Last month, Ocado, whose average order is £108, took a major step towards an initial public offering by signing a 10-year agreement with its partner Waitrose, extending its supply relationship until 2020. Ocado's sales rose by a quarter to £427.3m in 2009 and last month its weekly orders passed the 100,000 barrier. But it has never made an annual pre-tax profit.

Ocado was launched in 2002 by three former Goldman Sachs' bankers, Tim Steiner, Jason Gissing and Jonathan Faiman, who will own shares worth about £180m if the float goes ahead.

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