THG's Moulding gives up 'golden share' after stock tumbles

·3 min read

By Kate Holton

LONDON (Reuters) -THG, a British online retailer and tech group backed by SoftBank, said on Monday it would give up its founder's "golden share" and seek a premium listing after its shares plummeted last week.

THG was rocked by a 35% share price collapse after an underwhelming investor presentation, forcing it to address corporate governance concerns more broadly.

Having delivered a bumper initial public offering last September, it has set out plans to spin off and list different parts of the business, prompting some investors to question the overall strategy and value.

The move to drop the founder's special share will be closely watched in Britain where regulators are expected to soon allow companies with dual class share structures to access its top tier share indices in a bid to attract more tech companies.

"After the anniversary of our 2020 listing we feel that the time is right to make this next step and apply to the Premium segment in 2022, thereby continuing the development of THG," CEO Matthew Moulding said.

This means THG would be eligible for entry into the FTSE indices and in turn see a strong ramp-up in passive and active investor interest.

Shares were up 9.8% at 1004 GMT.

Reaction from the analyst community was mixed, with Citi rating the stock a "buy" and saying the recent selloff was "overdone" while others remained sceptical.

"This dual class structure was only ever going to last 3 years. Bringing forward the move by a year is not exactly sweeping reform, nor is it a magic wand," said Neil Wilson, chief market analyst for Markets.com.

"Clearly governance concerns run much deeper than a quick bit of airbrushing can cope with," he added.

A seller of beauty and nutrition products that also runs an e-commerce and logistics arm for partners, THG was hit by plans to spin off its digital commerce Ingenuity division into a separate company.

Japanese venture capital giant SoftBank in May bought a stake in THG and signed a deal that would give it the option to inject a further $1.6 billion into Ingenuity once spun off, at a valuation of $6.3 billion.

Investors were left confused by the manoeuvring and questioned the valuation of the parent should there be a spinoff of Ingenuity, which hosts the lucrative beauty businesses that THG's revenue is built on.

The stock is down 63% year to date, with an overall market value of $4.85 billion.

THG owns beauty retailer Lookfantastic, makeup brand Illamasqua, beauty box service Glossybox and supplements firm Myprotein.

Britain's Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has proposed allowing dual class share structures for "innovative, often founder-led companies" for the first five years of a listing on the LSE's premium segment.

Dual class share structures allow company founders to maintain control at the expense of ordinary shareholders and are popular in New York and Amsterdam, the EU's top share-trading centre.

They are already available in London on the standard segment, but shareholder rights groups who back "one share, one vote" oppose their introduction on London's premium segment where top companies list and have access to the FTSE indices.

($1 = 0.7285 pounds)

(Additional reporting by Rachel Armstrong and Abhinav Ramnarayan; editing by Michael Holden and Jason Neely)

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