Hotel Chocolat boss Angus Thirlwell has insisted “we are worth it” after the business unveiled its initial public offering on AIM.
The chocolatier set its share price at 148p, the upper end of the anticipated range, giving it a market cap of £167m – higher than the predicted £150m valuation.
But Hotel Chocolat co-founder and chief executive Thirlwell told Retail Week the share price, which will raise around £55.5m to accelerate its strategy, reflected its position as a “strong British brand”.
He said of the IPO: “It’s good, but we are definitely worth it – we are a strong brand, with a very strong future ahead of us.
“It was at the higher end of what we were thinking we could get, so it reflects the level of demand from the investment community and a good understanding and recognition of what we can do next.
“That was a warmer reaction than I was hoping for. You always try and contain it and err on the conservative side, so when we heard and saw the reaction, it was substantially better than we could have hoped for.
“The investment community have seen strong British brands, many of them retailers, come through and they can spot the good ones a mile off. These opportunities to invest don’t come along very often and I think that was the driver behind it.”
Thirlwell and Hotel Chocolat co-founder Peter Harris will retain a 66.6% stake between them, working with professional investors to drive the business forward.
The retailer will concentrate on building its UK presence, where it has 81 stores, by increasing its manufacturing capacity, relaunching its website and opening new stores.
“What we are all looking for is for the Hotel Chocolat brand to continue to fulfil its destiny to deliver our strategy in a tight, disciplined way without wavering or diluting the brand values,” Thirlwell added.
“We have always been very ambitious for the brand. This is more of a stepping stone to what we already had as our vision rather than being something unexpected.
“We want to build a company and a brand that goes on for a very, very, very long time, so we need to make sure we use this opportunity to strengthen the brand, improve everything we do and get stronger every year.”
Thirlwell and Harris will be among a group of around 20 Hotel Chocolat representatives at the Stock Exchange on May 10, when the admission and commencement of dealings in shares gets under way.