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Blue Inc to list on Aim 'before the summer'

Blue Inc is to list on the Alternative Investment Market (Aim) as early as June, with the company planning to use funds raised to double its store estate in the UK.

The company has hired advisers Cantor Fitzgerald to work on the IPO, which chief executive Steven Cohen said would happen “before the summer”.

He added: “The main focus is to raise new money in order to supercharge our ongoing growth plan – in particular investing in the existing store estate, which has already grown significantly in the last two-to-three years.”

Cohen said there was the “opportunity for up to 500 highly differentiated stores across the UK” in both prime and secondary locations. Cohen could not rule out the possibility of opening a Blue Inc store on Oxford Street as it looks to “bring our concept to new customers around the country”, although he noted that the retailer would continue to “grow cautiously”.

The company currently operates 240 stores, nearly 10 times the number it had when Cohen bought the business in 2006. This has come both from organic growth and through bolt-ons from its acquisition of D2 and Officers Club.

Drapers understands that the float will see roughly half of the business – which is thought to be valued at around £60m – go public, and it is thought that between £10m and £15m could be ploughed back into Blue Inc. Cohen declined to comment on specifics, although he noted that investors such as Sir Stuart Rose – who is stepping down as chairman because of a conflict of interest with Fat Face, which is also listing – would retain their stake.

Rose is being replaced by chairman Richard Rose (no relation), and the board is also being boosted by the arrival of Lord Leigh of Hurley, the Tory party treasurer and co-founder of Cavendish Corporate Finance.

As well as store expansion, the cash is likely to be used to roll out Blue Inc’s new storefit, which has been trialled in Luton and Peterborough. Funds will also be deployed to bolster its online arm, predominantly in marketing and social media.

“It is all about investment for the future,” Cohen said.

Blue Inc is also looking to build its international division. Currently the company has five franchise stores in the Baltics and two in Malaysia, and is in talks with possible partners in South America and the Middle East.

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