Topps duo to net £20m in buy-back

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The Independent Online

The duo who turned a tile shop into a national chain with funds from one of their wives' hairdressing business are to pocket about £10m each from the first share buy-back in the company's quoted history.

Topps Tiles, which has 260 UK outlets, unveiled plans yesterday to hand back £122.4m to its shareholders because it is generating more cash than it can spend. Barry Bester, who owns 8 per cent of the group, and Stuart Williams, who has a 9 per cent stake, will be the biggest beneficiaries of the cash handout.

Shareholders will get 54p for every share they own in the first buy-back since the group floated in 1997. Topps' origins date to a Manchester-based tile shop that was opened in 1965 by Ted Derbyshire. He sold out in 1995 to Messrs Bester and Williams, who used their Tile Kingdom to create the country's biggest tile chain. A windfall from Mrs Bester's hairdressing business bankrolled the original chain.

Nick Ounstead, Topps' chief executive, said investors had been calling on the board to hand back some cash. The shares rose 12.5p to 243.5p yesterday.

Topps has net cash of £26m and will gear up to fund the buy-back. It spends about £4.5m on annual capital expenditure. Its long-term aim is to trade from at least 400 stores in the UK

The cash handout was announced alongside third-quarter trading results that showed the tile market was beginning to strengthen. In April, May and June, like-for-like sales were flat after falling 4 per cent in the first half of the year.

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