Upmarket chocolatier Hotel Chocolat is eyeing international expansion as talks progress over a potential stake sale to fund its “next stage of growth”.
The retailer has ignited a hunt for international franchise partners in northern and central Europe, South America, North America and the Far East.
In its online prospectus Hotel Chocolat said: “We are targeting key markets where we believe our brand will successfully resonate with local consumers.
“The expansion of our own stores will be supported through a global network of franchise partners.”
The retailer, which already has four company-owned stores overseas - two in the US and one each in Denmark and the Netherlands - stipulates that franchise partners must have sufficient capital to support a five-year expansion plan.
Chief executive Angus Thirlwell told Retail Week earlier this year that Hotel Chocolat has a large Asian social media following and its London stores are popular with Japanese tourists.
The retailer raided Monsoon Accessorize to recruit its first international director, Roger Williams, in January.
The 67-store retailer is also expanding in the UK. It is refitting a number of its stores to its Roast + Conch cafe and shop format, developing its digital offer and has found a site for its first fine-dining restaurant in London, set to open this year.
It emerged this week that adviser PwC, hired last year to evaluate unsolicited bids, has held talks with potential private equity buyers to explore the sale of a minority stake in the chocolatier, founded by Thirlwell and Peter Harris in 2003. A deal could value the retailer at more than £100m.
A Hotel Chocolat spokeswoman said: “Discussions may lead to the investment of a minority stake in the business, to assist with the next stage of growth.”
The retailer recorded an 84% surge in pre-tax profits to £5.4m for the 12 months to June 3, 2012, in what Thirlwell deemed a “coming of age” year.