An IPO of a retail company worth billions? Not far fetched — it is Farfetch.
Online fashion retailer Farfetch plans to interview bankers in upcoming weeks to help lead its New York-based initial public offering, according to sources familiar with the matter. The IPO could come as soon as this year.
The London-based company is aiming for a valuation as high as $5 billion, some of the sources said. E-commerce companies are often quickly growing and lacking clear peers in the public markets, so their planned IPO valuations may evolve with market conditions and investor receptivity.
Unlike typical retailers, Farfetch does not own the inventory it sells, but rather serves as a conduit for brands and boutiques. As such, it can avoid the complicated task of predicting what customers want and the expense of holding it in stock. Such "marketplace" companies, like eBay, Amazon, JD.com and Alibaba often trade at a higher premium than traditional retailers. A $5 billion valuation would take advantage of that premium, pegging Farfetch against them.
The U.S. IPO market has gotten off to a strong start this year, with January raising more IPO proceeds than any other month on Dealogic record.
The sources requested anonymity because the information is not yet public. Farfetch declined to comment.
In 2016, Farfetch generated revenue of 151 million pounds ($209.9 million, under current exchange rates), a 74 percent increase over the year prior, according to filings with U.K. regulators. It reported gross merchandise value (value of the goods exchanged on its platform) of 547 million pounds ($760.3 million). It reported losses of 34 million pounds ($47.3 million).
Farfetch's CEO in 2016 told Reuters an IPO was the company's next key financial milestone, but declined to delve into specifics on timing.
Farfetch touts itself as a marketplace for the global fashion consumer. It connects shoppers to over 700 brands and boutiques internationally, selling established lines like Gucci and emerging ones like Gabriela Hearst. It prides itself on curation and inspiration, allowing shoppers to navigate by brand, item or its stylized edits. It express ships to more than 190 countries worldwide.
Farfetch and peer Yoox Net-a-Porter have been able to thrive by occupying a niche that Amazon has yet to be conquer: luxury fashion. The world's most elite labels have resisted selling on the Seattle giant's website, suspicious of its ability to maintain the integrity of their brand.
Cementing the value luxury companies see in the upper echelons of online retail, Cartier owner Richemont last month offered up to 2.8 billion euros ($3.4 billion) to buy the stake of Yoox it did not previously own.
Net-a-Porter founder, Natalie Massenet, sits on the Farfetch board. Unlike Farfetch, Net-a-Porter owns the inventory it sells.
Farfetch has grown through a number of partnerships that have helped it broaden its distribution, offerings and capabilities. Its deal with JD.com in Asia and The Chalhoub Group in the Middle East provide distribution and logistics support in those respective regions.
Its partnership with Conde Nast, announced last year, integrates the magazine publisher's content with Farfetch's shopping platform. Its Style.com website also now redirects to Farfetch.
In 2015, Farfetch purchased London fashion boutique Browns. It is using Browns as one of its testing grounds for new retail technology in what it calls the "Store of the Future." Offerings include touch-screen-enhanced mirrors and connected clothing racks.
Farfetch also launched Black and White, an infrastructure platform that luxury brands can use to develop their own e-commerce business.
Farfetch was founded in London in 2008 by Portuguese entrepreneur Jose Neves. It has offices in 11 cities, including London, Tokyo and Los Angeles.
Its global investor base includes France's Eurazeo and Singapore's sovereign wealth fund Temasek.