3i ends 13-year hold of Hobbs

3i has exited its 13-year investment in womenswear retailer Hobbs.

The company has been sold to South African trade buyer The Foschini Group. Foschini said the deal would increase its portfolio of brands and increase its online presence.

Hobbs operates 140 retail outlets in the UK. Its products are also stocked in department stores across the world and sold online in 49 countries.

3i acquired the business in 2004 from Barclays Private Equity in a deal valued at £111m.

The listed buyout firm had eyed a £250m exit in 2012. However, burdened by a large bricks-and-mortar presence, trading at Hobbs has proved challenging in recent years.

In 2014 a new management team was installed led by Meg Lustman, formerly of John Lewis and Warehouse.

Last year the company reported turnover of £119.5m and an operating loss of £2.5m.

Foschini owns 22 retail brands and operates 3,000 stores, selling goods from clothes to mobile phones.


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