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The Hut starts buying spree ahead of next year's flotation

Online retailer The Hut Group is targeting a potential flotation in the spring after completing the latest in a series of acquisitions last week.

The company, which has raised nearly £33m from investors this year, is believed to be eyeing further acquisitions and is considering launching an IPO as early as April.

The Hut acquired Mankind Direct – the web retailer of men's beauty products – last week for £2.5m, in an effort to capture a larger slice of the burgeoning male grooming market.

Clearwater Corporate Finance advised Mankind Direct on the sale of the business. The acquisition came after The Hut's much bigger purchase of Lookfantastic – the online retailer of health and beauty products that also has hairdressing salons inthe South-east – for £19.4m on9 November.

The two acquisitions made The Hut by far the UK's largest online retailer in both women's and men's health and beauty.

Back in November, The Hut said the Lookfantastic acquisition was funded through a "substantially over-subscribed" £18.5m institutional fundraising from existing shareholders, including Balderton Capital, Artemis, William Currie Group and Angus Monro, the former chief executive of the fashion retailer Matalan.

This followed the £14m raised by The Hut in April from the same group of investors through £10m of new equity and a placing of £4m of new shares. At that time, Matthew Moulding, the co-founder and chief executive of The Hut, said: "We are delighted to have completed such a unique fundraising where we have asked major financial institutions to step outside of the norm of publicly-listed companies and invest in a private company in advance of a flotation."

In addition to the transactional websites it owns, including Zavvi, Washbag and Iwantoneofthose, The Hut also provides an online technology platform for retail heavyweights, such as Tesco, Asda and WHSmith. The Hut increased earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) by more than 100 per cent in the six months to 30 June 2010.

For the year to 31 December 2009, The Hut Group's Ebitda grew by 142 per cent to £1.46m, on sales up by 140 per cent to £52.29m.