Maternitywear chain Seraphine to be taken private at fraction of IPO price

A maternitywear chain, which became a favourite of the Princess of Wales during her pregnancies, is to be taken private at a fraction of its flotation value less than two years ago.

Sky News has learnt that Seraphine - which trades under the London-listed ticker BUMP - has agreed to a 30p-a-share offer from its existing private equity backer, Mayfair Equity Partners.

If the deal goes through, it would be at a discount of around 90% to the initial public offering price of 295p roughly 18 months ago.

Seraphine has seen a steep decline in sales, reporting last month that revenues had fallen in "a highly challenging environment".

Independent shareholders are likely to be persuaded to accept the Mayfair offer, which is at a premium of more than 200% to Thursday's closing share price of 9.8p.

The company has a market value of just £4.8m, having seen its shares plummet by 95% during the last 12 months.

Seraphine was founded by Cecile Reinaud in 2002 after she designed several items of clothing for pregnant friends.

Under her leadership, it grew into an international business, with online sales in more than 100 countries and stores in cities including London, New York and Paris.

In 2015, Ms Reinaud won The Queen's Award for Enterprise.

In 2020, she stepped up to become the company's president, handing over the chief executive's reins to David Williams, a former Asos executive.

Mayfair backed a management buyout of Seraphine in December 2020, valuing it at around £50m.

Its listing just seven months later reflected optimistic assumptions about the brand's growth potential, and Mayfair remains the company's largest shareholder with a stake of more than 40%.

Mayfair also owns the parent company of Yo!, the sushi bar chain, and holds a stake in Ovo Energy, the gas and electricity supplier.

In the last year, Seraphine has hired a new finance chief, Lee Williams, and shaken up other aspects of its leadership team.

Its catastrophic share price performance has partly been caused by weaker sentiment towards online-biased retailers, with the likes of ASOS and Boohoo also seeing their valuations come under severe pressure.

A combination of inflationary pressures, supply chain challenges and diminishing post-pandemic optimism about the relative strengths of digital retailers, has hurt the performance of many stocks in the sector.

Bankers at Investec are advising Mayfair on the offer, while Seraphine is being advised by finnCap.

Seraphine and Mayfair both declined to comment.