Clipper Logistics founder fashions £300m takeover bid
The founder of Clipper Logistics is plotting a £300m takeover of the company which helps retailers such as ASOS and John Lewis fulfil growing volumes of online orders.
Sky News has learnt that Steve Parkin, who founded Clipper in 1992 and floated the company on the London stock market five years ago, has approached fellow board members about a potential bid.
Mr Parkin is working on the bid with Sun Capital Partners, a US-based private equity firm, insiders said on Tuesday evening.
The Clipper founder, who is the company’s executive chairman, owns almost a third of its shares.
Alongside allies and including his own stake, Mr Parkin is understood to be able to count roughly 40% of the company’s shares in support of his approach.
Clipper’s independent non-executive directors are now forming a committee to oversee a formal offer from Mr Parkin and Sun Capital.
A statement confirming the takeover talks to the London Stock Exchange is expected to be made on Wednesday morning, following Sky News’ disclosure of the approach.
Leeds-based Clipper is one of the UK’s biggest specialist e-commerce fulfilment groups, handling digital orders from customers of retailers including Asda, Superdry, Shop Direct and Sports Direct.
Boomerang, the division of Clipper which handles customer returns, also works with some of the most prominent chains on the high street.
Employing more than 6000 people, the company is among the largest headquartered in Yorkshire by size of workforce.
The business is operating in a fast-growing area of the retail sector as consumers increasingly shift their shopping activity to online channels.
Reporting results in August for the year to the end of April, Clipper said that group revenue had risen by 15% to just over £460m, while earnings before interest and tax slipped marginally to £20.2m
Sources said that Mr Parkin had become frustrated at the slide in Clipper’s valuation over the last year, with the shares having slipped by close to 15%.
He sold shares at 100p in its 2014 flotation, and had seen them rise to almost five times that level before falling back.
One analyst said Mr Parkin had also become exasperated by the volume of corporate governance-related commitments that were associated with running a public company.
Mr Parkin’s attempt to take Clipper private comes at a busy time in the UK logistics sector, with Eddie Stobart Logistics (ESL) at risk of collapse unless it can secure new funding in the coming weeks.
ESL has recommended a proposal from its former controlling shareholder, DBAY Advisors, that would leave shareholders nursing heavy losses.
Andrew Tinkler, who used to run the company, is lining up institutions to back a rival refinancing plan, while Wincanton is evaluating a formal takeover bid for ESL but is being hampered by a lack of available financial information.
The approach to buy Clipper will also raise fresh questions about the willingness of entrepreneurs to persevere with companies on the public markets when they believe
Shares in Clipper closed on Tuesday up 1.5% at 242.5p, giving the company a market capitalisation of £243m.
In order to secure a recommendation from independent directors, Mr Parkin and Sun Capital are likely to have to offer a premium of around 30% to the current share price.
That would value the company at in excess of £300m.
Numis, which is Clipper’s corporate broker, is advising the company on the approach from Mr Parkin and Sun Capital.
Sun owns assets in the UK including Dreams, the beds retailer, and has also owned Bonmarche, the fashion chain which recently collapsed into administration.
The prospective bidders for Clipper are being advised by bankers at Nomura.
Clipper and Sun both declined to comment. – bbc.com