Although the flotation of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is currently grabbing all the headlines, German-based Zalando is also planning an initial public offering on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. The company, specializing in the sale of shoes and clothing, hopes for a valuation in excess of €4 billion when it offers up an estimated 10 per cent of its equity. This would raise around €500 million in new capital for the company.
Zalando AG was founded in Germany in 2008, specialising in footwear, by business partners Robert Gentz and David Schneider. It now employs 7,000 people with an average age of 29, and has 13.7 million active customers. In the intervening years, and especially since 2010, Zolando has become a multinational venture, selling its products all over Europe. The company turned over €1.8 billion in 2013.
It was not until the second quarter of this year, however, that Zalando reported an operating profit, and this heightened speculation that an IPO was inevitable. Rumours that floatation was imminent were already rife after Zalando changed its corporate structure in May in line with the legal requirements for a European public company. Zalando’s finance chief, Rubin Ritter, said: “Reaching profitability in the first half of 2014 was an important milestone… going onto the stock market was the next logical step in Zalando’s development”.
This would make it one of the biggest tech floats in Europe in years (the fifth largest this century), according to the Financial Times. In its IPO statement, Zalando said it would focus on “profitable growth” going forward, expanding into other countries as well as strengthening its e-commerce platform.
The delays in the floatation of Alibaba have opened up a window for Zalando. The Chinese e-commerce firm had planned to launch its IPO at the end of August, but was forced to postpone until next week pending regulatory approval. Zalando’s own launch is also uncertain, however, and it will only go ahead if market conditions remain favourable, according a spokesperson for the company. Another German retailer, Metro AG, postponed its own IPO earlier this year due to tensions with Russia.
Zalando is now a well-established name in Germany, Austria and Switzerland (where it makes 60 per cent of its sales), but it has had a presence in the UK since 2011, when it launched Zalando.co.uk with an accompanying television advertising campaign. This week it launched a new advertising campaign at its new press conference, hoping to match its hugely successful “scream for joy” campaign that gained widespread publicity for the company.
Zalando will be hoping to capitalize on the difficulties encountered by its British rival Asos, whose shares have fallen this year after the company issued a profit warning.