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SoftBank-backed THG boosts board as it seeks to soothe investors

By Reuters

By Sachin Ravikumar

THG announced changes to its board on Tuesday and published growth figures for its Ingenuity technology unit, as it sought to repair its image among investors concerned about transparency at the British e-commerce group.

THG named an executive from backer SoftBank to its board and said it had begun seeking an independent chair to prepare for a planned premium listing on the London Stock Exchange (LSE).

But its shares, which had already fallen some 40% this month, fell a further 12% after Tuesday’s announcement, which included mixed financial results.

The Manchester-based company, also known as The Hut Group, has tried to calm investor nerves after its shares plunged 35% in a single session this month following an investor presentation focused on Ingenuity, which THG plans to spin off. Investors had expected more specifics about the business.

In Tuesday’s announcement, THG said Ingenuity – which sells e-commerce software to other companies – had signed 44 clients in the third quarter ended Sept. 30 and was expecting a “strong pipeline” of new client wins in the current quarter.

THG also gave an upbeat outlook for Ingenuity, predicting that 2022 revenue from the business will exceed current market expectations by 20-25%.

“All in all, some steps clearly in the right direction,” J.P. Morgan Cazenove analysts said in a note. “But we believe the company now has to consistently present new clients (for Ingenuity) on an ongoing base to restore confidence.”

MIXEDRESULTS

THG, which went public in a bumper initial public offering last year, owns beauty retailer Lookfantastic and supplements firm Myprotein.

Japanese venture capital giant SoftBank, which bought nearly 10% of THG in May, has an option to inject $1.6 billion into Ingenuity at a valuation of $6.3 billion once it is spun off.

THG reported a 34% jump in third-quarter revenue to 507.8 million pounds ($698.3 million).

Its beauty business grew revenue by 57%, benefitting from the acquisition of Cult Beauty. But a 9.5% rise in nutrition revenue was slower than expected by analysts at Citi and J.P. Morgan Cazenove.

Since the poorly received presentation, THG founder, CEO and Executive Chairman Matthew Moulding has sought to reassure investors by giving up his “golden share,” https://www.reuters.com/technology/thgs-moulding-gives-up-golden-share-after-shares-plummet-2021-10-18 seeking a premium listing for THG and foregoing a pledge of some of his THG shares as collateral for a loan facility.

THG is listed on the standard segment of the LSE. The premium listing it seeks would demand stricter corporate governance standards from companies and could give them greater visibility through the FTSE indices.

The group said on Tuesday it had appointed SoftBank executive Andreas Hansson, who serves on the boards of a number of the Japanese conglomerate’s portfolio companies, as a non-executive director to its board.

It also said it had engaged a consultant to search for an independent non-executive chair, to align itself to British corporate governance rules before its proposed premium listing.

Many investors and shareholder rights groups favour independent chairs to provide balance in boardrooms and oversee company executives.

THG has independent directors on its board but not an independent chair.

(GRAPHIC: THG since IPO – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/buzz/gkvlgxzakpb/Pasted%20image%201635242839810.png)

($1 = 0.7272 pounds)