Danish investor takes stake in German online retailer Zalando

BERLIN Tue Aug 13, 2013 6:36am EDT

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BERLIN (Reuters) - Danish fashion magnate Anders Holch Povlsen has taken a 10 percent stake in Europe's biggest online fashion retailer Zalando from early stage investors as bricks-and-mortar retailers look to take a slice of booming e-commerce.

High street fashion retailers are increasingly looking to expand into e-commerce as more shoppers buy clothes from home, with Hennes & Mauritz (HMb.ST) launching online sales in the United States earlier this month.

Zalando said in a statement that Povlsen, who owns the Bestseller group known for high street stores like Jack & Jones and Vero Moda, had bought shares from early investors including European Founders Found (EFF), Holtzbrinck and Tengelmann.

A Zalando spokesman declined to say how much Povlsen, who Forbes estimated is worth $2.5 billion, paid for the stake.

"Anders Holch Povlsen will be a strong and long-term-oriented shareholder and together we want to design the future of fashion e-commerce," Rubin Ritter, Zalando managing director, said in the statement.

Speculation has mounted that Zalando could soon look to float on the stock market although the founders of the Berlin-based firm have said they first want to focus on achieving profitability in core markets.

Zalando has been extending its lead over British rival ASOS (ASOS.L) as Europe's largest online fashion site, expanding from shoes to clothes and now selling over 1,000 brands. It doubled 2012 net sales to 1.2 billion euros ($1.60 billion).

In a separate statement, Rocket Internet, the venture capital company behind Zalando said it had transferred its stake in the company to Swedish investment firm Kinnevik (KINVb.ST), EFF and Access Industries. Kinnevik and EFF had previously held part or all of their stakes indirectly via Rocket Internet.

Kinnevik now owns a 37 percent stake, EFF has 18 percent, while retail group Tengelmann trimmed its stake to 6 percent from 7 percent and German venture capital firm Holtzbrinck to 8 percent from 11 percent as they sold shares to Povlsen.

Kinnevik, which has been raising its exposure to e-commerce, last year bought an additional 10 percent of Zalando at a price that valued the total company at 2.8 billion euros.

Founded in 2008, Zalando has mirrored Amazon's (AMZN.O) strategy of spending heavily on advertising to boost brand awareness, and it also offers a free, but costly, return policy in all markets.

(Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Louise Heavens)

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