UPDATE 1-UK retailer New Look rules out stock market listing for now

Tue Feb 11, 2014 5:30am EST

LONDON Feb 11 (Reuters) - British fashion retailer New Look said it did not plan to list the business on a stock market in the foreseeable future, after heavy discounting by rivals wiped out strong online sales at Christmas.

The group, owned by private equity firms Apax and Permira, and founder Tom Singh, said it needed to strengthen the business across several fronts including online and abroad before it could consider a market listing.

Though official UK retail data shows the sector recorded its fastest annual sales growth in more than nine years in December, Christmas trading updates from major store groups showed clear winners and losers.

New Look, which trades from 1,104 stores worldwide after opening its first store in Britain in 1969, said it had been unable to sell warmer clothes in its financial third quarter to the end of December because of unseasonably mild weather at the start of the period.

In the run-up to Christmas it was also hit by the fierce discounting across the British high street. A more than 50 percent increased in online sales helped it to post flat core earnings in the quarter.

"We don't have any imminent plans," Chief Executive Anders Kristiansen told reporters when asked whether he planned to join companies that are listing their businesses in Britain.

"We believe very much (that we need to) deliver a solid business and doing just that takes time. We want to demonstrate that we have got an international business and we want to get started in China, in Russia, take over our Polish business and get into Germany with our own website.

"Once we have got all of that then it is worth contemplating but it is not happening in the foreseeable future. We need a much more solid business, that we can believe can deliver quarter after quarter."

In the 13 weeks to the end of December, adjusted core earnings were flat at 83.3 million pounds ($136.6 million), and up 9.9 percent over the nine-month period.

New Look said it was optimistic about the year ahead and had started January well. That fits with a monthly industry survey released on Tuesday, showing British retail sales rebounding last month to record their strongest annual growth since April 2011.

The group added that it was on track to open its first stores in Shanghai and Beijing in Spring 2014.