* Home24 sales exceed 100 mln euros, growth accelerating
* Rocket Internet expected to list in coming months
* IKEA expanding online after slow start
* Home24 to open in another market this year, more in 2015
* Only 3-4 pct of furniture sold online but share rising
By Emma Thomasson
LONDON, Aug 21 Online furniture retailer Home24,
a German-based start-up which hopes to challenge IKEA's
dominance, is expanding to Belgium, its sixth market,
and plans to launch in other countries in the next year, its
managing director told Reuters.
Home24 was launched in 2011 by Rocket Internet, the venture
capital group which has founded dozens of start-ups in recent
years and is expected to list its shares in Frankfurt in coming
months, according to financial sources.
Home24, which already operates in Germany, France, Austria,
the Netherlands and Switzerland, as well as Brazil under the
brand name Mobly, saw revenue jump to 93 million euros ($123
million) in 2013 from 52 million euros in 2012 and crossed the
annualised 100 million mark in February.
Its site went live in Belgium on Thursday and managing
director Constantin Eis said he expects to launch in another
country before the end of the year, with more European markets
in the pipeline for next year. He said more than 40 percent of
sales already come from outside its home market Germany.
"We are accelerating in growth right now... we are expanding
our assortment, launching new countries and the experience of
the customer on the site is getting better and better," Eis told
Reuters in a telephone interview.
"We are also launching private labels and this is all
fuelling our growth," he added, noting the Home24 sites now have
1 million registered customers.
Only about 3-4 percent of furniture sales are currently made
online, but research firm Euromonitor forecasts the market will
grow almost 10 percent a year to $24 billion by 2015 from $20
billion in 2013.
IKEA, the world's biggest furniture retailer, has been slow
to embrace e-commerce given its focus on a shopping experience
that combines maze-like showrooms with cafes and play areas and
that drives impulse buys of high-margin accessories.
But it is now ramping up its online business and saw
e-commerce sales grow almost 27 percent in its biggest market
Germany to 92 million euros in the 2012/13 fiscal year, still
just 2 percent of total sales.
Eis, a 31-year-old former strategy consultant at Roland
Berger who took over as managing director of Home24 at the start
of 2014, said the business that now employs 300 people was
making progress towards profitability.
"We are on a clear path to reducing losses," he said.
Swedish investment firm Kinnevik, which holds a
direct and indirect stake in Home24 totalling 33 percent, said
the firm narrowed its operating loss to 40.2 million euros in
2013 from 81.1 million in 2012.
Home24 is just one of some 70 e-commerce firms, online
market places and financial technology companies launched by the
German Samwer brothers behind Rocket Internet who are reported
to have pledged to "take down" IKEA.
German Internet service provider United Internet AG
last week paid 435 million euros for a 10.7 percent
stake in Rocket Internet, valuing the firm at 4.3 billion euros.
(1 US dollar = 0.7535 euro)
(Editing by David Evans)