News Column

Card Factory Lures Cooper Ahead Of Float

February 13, 2014

Mark Kleinman, City Editor

Sky News understands that Geoff Cooper, who stepped down from the builder's merchant last year, is taking over as chairman of Card Factory ahead of a potential listing later in the year.

Card Factory, which has about 700 shops, is owned by Charterhouse, a major private equity firm that also holds stakes in Saga and the AA, the roadside recovery service.

Mr Cooper's appointment is designed to give the cards chain credibility in the City amid a deluge of retailers vying for investors' attention.

A non-executive director of Informa, the media group, he holds a handful of other boardroom roles, including chairmanships at Dunelm, the beds retailer, and Bourne Leisure Holdings. He held the reins at Travis Perkins for almost a decade.

A flotation of Card Factory is not definite, but is the likeliest option after an auction of the company was abandoned last year.

Going public would crystallise another windfall for Dean and Janet Hoyle, the Yorkshire-based husband-and-wife team who started Card Factory from the back of a van more than 20 years ago.

The initial sale to Charterhouse netted them 350m, with the company now expected to be valued at about twice that sum.

Some institutions have expressed doubts about the prospects for greeting cards retailers on the high street given that a fast-growing proportion of industry sales are now conducted online and a growing demand for personalised products.

Morgan Stanley and UBS, the investment banks, have been given the task of drumming up interest from City institutions.

A successful exit is important for Charterhouse, which is also in the process of trying to float Elior, a French food-services company. Deutsche Bank, HSBC and JP Morgan have been recruited to assist with that listing.

At least half a dozen UK retailers are competing for investors' attention, with the parent of Appliances Online, Fat Face, Game Retail, House of Fraser, Pets At Home and Poundland all looking at flotations.

Neither Mr Perkins nor Card Factory could be reached for comment.

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Source: Sky News (UK)

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