Cycling brand Rapha hires bankers as it gears up for bumper sale

(c) Sky News 2017: <a href="">Cycling brand Rapha hires bankers as it gears up for bumper sale</a>

The upmarket cycling-wear brand Rapha has moved its sale preparations up a gear by hiring advisers to carry out a review of the company's options.

Sky News has learnt that Rapha's board has appointed William Blair, an investment bank, to undertake an exercise that is likely to lead to a sale.

Sources said that a public flotation had also been discussed, although a private sale was more likely.

The move comes on the back of soaring revenues at the business, which is partly owned by Active Private Equity, an investment firm.

A sale would enable Rapha's shareholders to cash in on fast-growing interest in cycling, both in the UK and internationally, despite persistent questions over the sport's governance at a professional level.

Road cycling is now estimated to be a $47bn-a-year global market, making it the largest sports category in the world.

Rapha was founded in 2004 by Simon Mottram, a branding consultant who disliked the garish polyester outfits which dominated the cycle-wear market.

Mr Mottram subsequently sold a stake in the business to Active, which has also acquired shareholdings in companies including Honest Burger, Soho House and Leon, the healthy fast food chain.

It was unclear on Monday how likely a sale was to take place or the valuation that Rapha could attract.

Revenues in the year to January were £63m, up 30% on the previous 12 months.

Much of that growth was driven by Rapha's growing international customer base, with the brand now present in retail locations in 14 cities from Chicago to Seoul.

Among Rapha's partnerships was a four-year deal to supply Team Sky, the professional cycling team backed by Sky plc (Frankfurt: 893517 - news) , the owner of Sky News.

That deal ended last year.

According to the company, it employed more than 350 people at the end of 2016, and has an international cycling club with more than 9,000 members, each of whom pays an annual £135 fee.

Both Active and Rapha declined to comment on the appointment of William Blair.

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