Phipps to make return to market: Float in early summer expected to value shoemaker at pounds 100m

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CHAMBERLAIN Phipps, one of Europe's leading makers of shoes and footwear materials, plans to float early in the summer. The group - bought by Dan Sullivan, its chairman, and Legal & General Ventures from Evode for pounds 11.9m two years ago - is expected to be valued at about pounds 100m.

The flotation will mark Chamberlain Phipps's return to the stock market. It was listed until its acquisition by Evode, for pounds 74m, in 1989.

Mr Sullivan said pre-tax profits had risen by more than 30 per cent a year during the past two years, to pounds 11m, on turnover of pounds 135m in the 12 months to 2 April. The group more than doubled its sales with the acquisition of two French footwear manufacturers - Groupe SAC in May 1993 and Thierry last February. Apart from a boot-making operation in Canada, it had previously concentrated on supplying materials to other manufacturers.

The group sells 70 per cent of its output overseas. It has plants in Portugal and Morocco as well as Britain and France. Mr Sullivan said: 'Footwear has become an international business. There are great opportunities for players like us who have the critical mass to supply niche markets on a multinational basis.'

The group is an important supplier to Doc Martens, Britain's biggest shoe manufacturer. Its UK plants also sell materials to Far Eastern manufacturers that re-export completed footwear.

In France, Chamberlain Phipps is one of the biggest independent producers of own- label footwear for retailers. It intends to develop the French businesses by increasing export and branded sales.

Mr Sullivan and Legal & General Ventures will retain a majority of their shares, together holding 50 per cent after flotation. The funds raised will be used to reduce gearing from about 200 per cent to 50 per cent of equity.

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