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M and M Direct mulls AIM float

Discount leisurewear and sports retailer M and M Direct is considering an AIM float as an exit for its private equity backer ECI Partners.

The online and catalogue retailer appointed accountancy firm Deloitte to assess the future of the business two months ago, but M and M Direct chief executive Mike Tomkins insisted it would not necessarily plump for a private equity or trade sale.

"There's lots of secondary buyout interest, but we're not going to show our hand yet," said Tomkins.

He also admitted that the retailer had been approached by trade buyers, but timings had not been right.

Tomkins, who is M and M's second largest stakeholder, said he believed the float of Sports Direct last month proved there was an appetite for his type of business.

He said: "One option is that we might replicate that on AIM. We're a more mature business than (online fashion retailer) Asos.com and it doesn't seem to have done it any harm. When you're trading well, there are lots of opportunities."

Tomkins said that Deloitte's evaluation of the business would be completed in three months.

ECI backed a £40 million buyout of M and M in 2004. The retailer had a turnover of about £63m for the year to February 2007, said Tomkins, up from £52m the year before.

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