The Scottish Mail on Sunday

Glasses firm sets sights on £170m flotation on AIM

- By Ben Harrington

A COMPANY that makes glasses for Superdry, O’Neill and Radley is close to pushing the button on a £170million flotation on London’s junior market.

City sources said Inspecs, whose chairman is former Tesco boss Lord MacLaurin, is on the verge of launching the flotation after hiring brokers from Peel Hunt last year to manage the deal.

If the float goes ahead, it is likely to be one of the largest on the AIM market in 2020 and will demonstrat­e growing investor appetite for new issues after a tough year.

In 2019, flotations fell to the lowest level since the financial crisis a decade ago – but last week, smart meter company Calisen successful­ly floated on the London Stock Exchange at £1.3billion in the largest initial public offering (IPO) of the year so far.

Documents filed at Companies House show that Inspecs intends to float by March 31, 2020. The company was set up in 1988 by Robin Totterman, a former bond trader, when he needed glasses and he couldn’t find a pair he liked.

It has grown substantia­lly since, with reports suggesting it has operating profits of £6.2million on sales of £45million last year.

Totterman stands to make more than £100million from a float or sale as his family own around 60 per cent of the company.

Private equity firms Harwood and Henderson are also shareholde­rs in Inspecs, which is based in Bath.

Lord MacLaurin joined the Inspecs board in 2017. He is one of Britain’s most respected businessme­n, having chaired Vodafone as well as Tesco.

He also chaired the England & Wales cricket board.

Data from the London Stock Exchange shows just 34 companies joined last year, less than half 2018’s total, with new equity raised shrinking from more than £6 billion to just £3.7billion.

Sterling volatility and Brexit uncertaint­ies have taken the blame for the poor flow of new listings.

Investors have also become wary of buying into new issues following terrible performanc­es of luxury car maker Aston Martin Lagonda and specialist lenders Funding Circle and Amigo.

However, some bankers are optimistic about the possibilit­y of more floats hitting the London Stock Exchange now that political certainty has been establishe­d following December’s Election.

O2, retail group Pepkor – which owns Poundland – and DNEG, the visual effects company, have all been tipped as potential flotations in 2020.

Inspecs didn’t return calls for comment.

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