3i to sell Interflora to US rival

3i, the London-listed investor, has conditionally agreed to sell UK flower delivery business Interflora for £65m less than 18 months after acquiring a 65% stake.

3i, the global private equity firm, has conditionally agreed to sell Interflora, a UK flower delivery company, to US competitor FTD, which provides flower services and speciality gifts, for £65.7 million (€95 million).
 
Last February, 3i invested £20 million for a majority stake in Interflora, with management and florists holding the remainder. According to a report in UK broadsheet The Independent, 3i owns 65 percent of Interflora, with management holding 14 percent and florists 21 percent.
 
At the time of 3i’s investment, the former mutual company was incorporated following a members vote. Bernard Norman, previously group chief executive of Littlewoods, a UK department store, and deputy chairman of Thomas Cook, the travel agent, was appointed as chairman.
 
According to an internal statement by 3i, the board of Interflora has announced the conditional sale of the business and 3i’s agreement at the time of incorporation agreed to give the trading members of Interflora the right to match any offer made for the business. The Florists Advisory Committee is currently in the process of evaluating the offer.
 
The Independent added that a number of member florists have been angered at the sale to a US business. FTD has had a trading relationship with Interflora for the past 80 years and the two businesses are co-owners of the Interflora global trademark.
 
3i said that Interflora has spent the past 17 months developing its member websites, group buying, database marketing and shop refurbishment programme. A spokesperson for 3i added that profits and revenues through the company’s websites had increased sufficiently to consider a sale.
 
Alan Stevenson, 3i director, said in the internal statement that Interflora had “achieved in seventeen months what it originally hoped to achieve in three years”.
 
Interflora provides flower and special gift delivery through 1,800 member florists in the UK and Ireland.
 
3i’s other retail investments include Ben Sherman and Gant, men’s fashion brands in the UK and Sweden respectively; UK pets product retailer Pets at Home; Halti, a Finnish sports retailer; and Early Learning Centre, a UK vendor of educational toys.