Wiggle planning stockmarket float

But will share certificates come with Haribo?

Fancy owning a part of Wiggle? The online retailer is considering a stockmarket flotation, which would move it from a privately-held company to one in which anyone could buy shares.

According to the Telegraph’s Ashley Armstrong, Wiggle’s owner, private equity firm Bridgepoint, is working with advisors from investment bank Rothschild on a potential initial public offering.

A Bridgepoint spokesman said no advisers had yet been mandated for an IPO, but Rothschild has been a longtime adviser to the company.

Then-owners Isis Partners were believed to have considered taking Wiggle public in 2011, but chose instead to sell the company to Bridgepoint in a deal that valued Wiggle at £180m.

But floating the companies it owns appears to be part of Bridgepoint’s business model. Another Bridgepoint holding, clothing retailer Fat Face is in the process of being floated with pricing expected to be set early this week that will value the store chain at around £440m.

Two sources familiar with the situation told the Telegraph that Wiggle was considering the flotation, with one adding it would be “mad not to” given the current multiples that are available in IPOs to companies with an online presence.

In March Wiggle advertised for a chief financial officer with an ad in which it said: “IPO experience would be an advantage.” The company played down speculation about a float, with a spokesman telling Financial News: "We would naturally look for IPO experience in our CFO in order to keep our options open."

Wiggle was founded in 1999 out of Portsmouth bike shop Butler Cycles by Mitch Dall and Harvey Jones. It grew rapidly on the back of the combination of the road cycling boom of the 2000s and the growth of internet mail order.

In 2006 Isis Partners and Wiggle management bought 42 percent of the company and injected £12.3m into it, supporting its growth by 2011 to revenues of £86m. Before tax, Wiggle made a profit of £12.3m on revenues of £140.7m for the year ending April 2013.

Dall sold his 26 percent stake in the company to Isis Partners and the management team in 2009, while Jones retired from active involvement in November of that year and six months later set off on a 55ft sailing yacht for a year-long voyage to the Arctic. Jones is now a trustee of environmental law firm ClientEarth while Dall’s last known venture was portable jetwasher maker MobiWasher.

Wiggle’s most significant online rival, Chain Reaction Cycles, also grew out of a bike shop, Ballynure Cycles in Northern Ireland, and also emerged as an online entity in 1999. The most recent available figures put Chain Reaction’s revenues at £155.6 million for 2012, with a profit of £861,000.

Chain Reaction is still owned by the family of Ballynure Cycles founders George and Janice Watson.

It's not yet known if Wiggle's IPO plans include sending out Haribo with dividend cheques.

Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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