Second-attempt at float to value Monsoon's founder at pounds 300m

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The Independent Online
A former encyclopaedia and fishfinger salesman, who started his retail career selling Afghan coats in a London market, will be worth more than pounds 300m when his Monsoon fashion chain comes to the stock market early next year. As Nigel Cope, City Correspondent reports, t is the group's second attempt at a float.

Peter Simon, who founded Monsoon in 1973, owns 96 per cent of the group, which is expected to be valued at around pounds 350m when it comes to the main market. He will be selling a quarter of his stake, realising pounds 87m, but says he does not really need the money.

"I'm not broke now," he said. "I'm not going to go on a great spending spree. I have simple hobbies, like sailing. But I'm not into big boats."

Monsoon pulled its float in July last year after a disagreement with its broker BZW. The dispute centred on Monsoon's largest shareholder, the Malta-based Sycamore Trust, which then held 67 per cent of Monsoon's stock.

That trust has since been disbanded with the stake acquired by two Guernsey- based trusts operated on Mr Simon's behalf.

NatWest Markets is acting as the company's broker this time and the value of the business has soared from its pounds 250m valuation 18 months ago.

Monsoon was founded by Mr Simon, 48, who was born in Sri Lanka during a monsoon - hence the name.

The first store opened in London's Beauchamp Place, specialising in garments sourced from the Far East. He had discovered the shoat, a cross between a sheep and a goat on a trip to Gozo. Local workers developed a shaggy coat which Mr Simon began importing to Britain.

Monsoon now has 103 stores in the UK and a further 24 overseas, selling women's clothing, accessories and childrenswear.

Mr Simon said that Monsoon planned to open around 30 new stores a year and could double in size without saturating the market.

Monsoon also owns the Accessorize format, which sells fashion accessories such as jewellery, hats, and cosmetics. It has 179 branches, of which 103 are within branches of Monsoon. The Accessorize chain has four stores overseas.

The group made operating profits of pounds 25.4m on sales of pounds 107.9m last year. It has increased trading profits in each of the last 12 years.

No new money is being raised via the float and Monsoon's staff and customers will not be able to buy the shares until after it has floated as the shares are only being placed with institutions.

Mr Simon said that he would have liked to have come to the market via an open offer but that the group's financial advisers had said it would prove too costly.

Mr Simon said the float would enable Monsoon to retain and attract top managers.