Virgin Wines pops cork on stock market flotation

Holly Williams, PA Deputy City Editor

Home delivery wine retailer Virgin Wines has unveiled plans for a stock market flotation next month after enjoying booming demand amid the pandemic.

The online group said it is planning to list on London’s junior AIM market on or around March 2 in a move reportedly set to value the group at about £100 million.

It comes amid a rush of flotations in 2021, with many firms capitalising on shifting consumer trends during the coronavirus crisis – such as food delivery giant Deliveroo and online greetings card firm Moonpig.

Virgin Wines said it delivered more than one million cases of wines to customers last year amid a jump in demand from locked-down Britons and with pubs and restaurants forced to close for much of the year.

The group said subscriptions now make up nearly three-quarters – 73% – of its annual sales, with about 147,000 of its 169,000 customers now subscribers.

It wants to tap further into the so-called off-trade wines market, which it said is worth some £2.4 billion a year.

Jay Wright, chief executive of Virgin Wines, said the initial public offering (IPO) would mark an “exciting new chapter” for the firm.

He said: “We have enjoyed strong, consistent growth recently resulting in the group delivering more than one million cases of wine to consumers during 2020.

“Underpinned by the strength of our customer proposition as well as the benefit of many positive consumer trends, we have a clear strategy to continue this growth over the coming years.”

Virgin Wines offers two subscription plans – WineBank, where members make monthly payments into an account to spread the cost of buying wine; and Wine Plan, offering five deliveries of 12-bottle cases of wine a year.

It also offers pay-as-you-go deliveries of 12-bottle cases for ad hoc customers.

The group said it saw revenues jump 55% year-on-year to £40.6 million in the second half of 2020, with underlying earnings leaping 196% to £4.5 million thanks to surging sales in the coronavirus crisis.

Virgin Wines was founded in 2000 by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group before being sold to Direct Wines five years later.

Mr Wright – founder of mail order wines business Warehouse Wines – and finance director Graeme Weir were appointed in 2008 and helped transform the previously loss-making business thanks to a focus on subscription business.

In November 2013, the pair led a £15.9 million management buyout of Virgin Wines, backed by private equity firms Mobeus Equity Partners and Connection Capital.

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