The Hut Group, the online retail company run by the billionaire Matthew Moulding, has spent more than £300m on acquisitions as it continues aggressive expansion plans after listing on the stock market.
It is buying Dermstore.com, an online skincare retailer, from the US retail chain Target for $350m (£259m). It is also spending almost £60m on the purchase of two UK-based nutrition suppliers, Claremont Ingredients and David Berryman.
The Hut Group (THG) floated its shares on the London Stock Exchange in September in the biggest initial public offering in the UK since 2013. The company was valued at £6.8bn on Christmas Eve, a valuation that would make it part of the FTSE 100 index of the UK’s largest listed companies but for THG’s heavily criticised governance arrangements, which give Moulding tight control of the company.
Moulding serves as both chairman and chief executive, while retaining a US-style “founder’s share” which prevents other investors from taking over the company for at least three years.
Moulding, who has donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to the Conservative party, has also this year received one of the biggest payouts in UK corporate history. He is already entitled to shares worth £830m after THG’s share price hit targets set at the initial public offering, but if the company’s value reaches £7.25bn before 31 December 2022 the award could break the £1bn mark.
Moulding and the finance boss, John Gallemore, both former Phones4U executives, founded THG in 2004, using a tax loophole to dodge VAT on sales of cheap CDs and DVDs. It then moved into niche retail areas, and used its IT and logistics abilities to expand rapidly.
THG plans to expand its existing online retail brands, such as the makeup site Lookfantastic and protein shake brand MyProtein, as well as selling its online retail technology to other companies that want to sell directly to customers.
Moulding said: “A key driver behind the decision to list THG on the London Stock Exchange just over three months ago was to enable the group to make major global investments, such as Dermstore.com.
“Accessing capital through a London listing has enabled us to accelerate our growth plans and build out a global leadership position within the exciting beauty industry.”