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Card Factory to float on stock exchange

A greetings card retailer with more 700 shops is to join the London stock market in a move reportedly set to value the business at £700 million.

Card Factory opened its first store in Wakefield, Yorkshire in 1997 and has grown into an operation with annual sales of £326 million and 6,500 staff.

It is expected to raise £90 million in the shares offer, which will add to the flurry of new retail stocks following recent listings by Pets at Home, Poundland and Boohoo.com.

The move will allow the company to pay down debt and invest in expanding its store estate to more than 1,200 sites in the UK and Ireland over the next 10 years.

It will also enable private equity firm Charterhouse to sell some of the shares it bought in securing a majority stake in the business from founders Dean and Janet Hoyle in 2010.

Card Factory, which focuses on the budget and mid-market sectors, sold more than 285 million cards in the year to January 31, a period when revenues grew 9% and underlying earnings lifted 9.2% to £80.4 million.

The company, which is still based in Wakefield, has enjoyed an unbroken record of like-for-like sales growth since its formation.

It also has an online offering selling personalised cards and gifts, as well as an in-house printing facility and warehousing capacity of more than 360,000 sq ft.

The Financial Times said the company was likely to be valued at around £700 million when the stock market float takes place next month.

Despite the collapse of rival Clinton Cards in 2012, chief executive Richard Hayes said he believed the giving of physical cards was firmly established in UK culture, with the average Briton buying 30 cards a year.

He added: "Our store roll-out strategy is well proven, with an average of 50 new store openings per annum over the past ten years, and we see the potential for significant further store portfolio expansion."

The company said it will also look to gain a greater share of the online market for personalised cards and gifts through its existing presence.

Geoff Cooper, who was chief executive of building supplies firm Travis Perkins from 2005 until last December, has been appointed as non-executive chairman.

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