By: Deirdre Hipwell and Katie Linsell
THG Plc’s The Hut app on a mobile phone arranged in London, U.K., on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022. THG Plc warned that profitability missed analysts’ estimates and said sales growth will decelerate this year amid high prices for protein shake ingredients and continued uncertainty from the pandemic. , Bloomberg
(Bloomberg) — THG Plc shares plunged Friday after ending talks with Apollo Global Management Inc. in the latest failed takeover attempt of the struggling UK online retailer.
The British company, which operates hundreds of beauty and lifestyle websites, said in a filing that after a short discussion with the New York-based private equity business it has become clear there is “no longer any merit in continuing to engage with Apollo.”
THG said it rejected Apollo’s approach for the same reason it rebuffed others — “inadequate valuations and the nature of those offer structures.” Apollo confirmed in a separate statement Friday that it doesn’t intend to make an offer to acquire THG.
Shares in THG fell as much as 23% before paring back in early trading.
Formerly known as The Hut Group, the company co-founded by Chief Executive Officer Matthew Moulding has had a bumpy ride since its 2020 listing due to governance concerns, the surging price of whey — which it uses in its protein shakes — and speculation over the future profitability of its Ingenuity unit, which helps other retailers sell online.
THG stock, which had initially risen on news of Apollo’s interest last month, has been on a downward trend since then and the company’s shares are still well below the 500 pence IPO price.
Entrepreneur Nick Candy last year walked away from making an offer for THG, as did a rival consortium consisting of Belerion Capital and King Street Capital Management. At the time people with knowledge of those bids said Manchester-based THG did not engage with either party or grant any due diligence access over concerns about the levels of debt in both proposals.
Read more: Nick Candy and Belerion Capital Drop Pursuit of Retailer THG
Moulding said on LinkedIn that Apollo’s proposal, which would have kept him in place as CEO, didn’t work as the bid valuation was “unacceptable” and the private equity firm wanted controlling equity rights across THG’s beauty and nutrition division.
“The Apollo bid was based upon smart financial engineering, capitalising on a wildly low share price from THG being on the London Stock Exchange,” he said in the post. “I get excited about building and growing things, not spreadsheets.”
Earlier this year THG announced a strategic review of loss-making businesses outside of its core beauty, nutrition and Ingenuity platforms. The review is intended to simplify the company. The company has also been reducing its capital expenditure.
Last month, the company, which is facing pressure from activist investor Kelso Group Holdings Plc, reported a slow start to the first quarter with sales turning negative. This came after a disappointing 2022 where earnings more than halved as the effects of inflation meant customers cut back on non-essential spending.
Read more: Activist Investor Kelso Raises THG Stake and Urges Share Buyback
THG said Friday that the board remains fully confident in the company’s strategic direction and long-term prospects as an independent business. It added the profitability and cash flow improvements made during the first quarter are continuing and it’s making progress with “diversity objectives” aimed at strengthening the board.
SoftBank Group Corp., a one-time anchor investor, sold its stake in the group last year. Moulding is still the largest shareholder with more than 15% with other large investors including the Qatar Investment Authority, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
“Shares are well below peak but low free cash flow yield reflects the issue in our view,” said Wayne Brown, analyst at Liberum. “With sterling strength, whey prices coming down and freight costs falling, headwinds over the past few years are turning into tailwinds.”
–With assistance from Lisa Pham.
(Updates with comments from THG CEO from seventh paragraph.)
Source: BNN Bloomberg