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Farfetch Sold to South Korea’s Coupang

The deal provides the online luxury giant with $500 million in emergency funding to continue operating. A complex transaction that would have seen Farfetch acquire a 47.5 percent stake in Yoox-Net-a-Porter from Richemont is dead.
Farfetch Secures $500 Million in Emergency Funding.
Farfetch Secures $500 Million in Emergency Funding. (Shutterstock)

Farfetch has been sold to South Korean e-commerce giant Coupang in a deal that will provide the online luxury giant with $500 million in emergency funding, according to a statement Monday.

The deal, which is expected to be finalised early next year, sees Farfetch narrowly avoid bankruptcy after a slowing luxury market, M&A missteps and high cost of debt imperilled the platform’s operations, risking ripple effects for partner boutiques and brands.

But Farfetch’s complex deal with Richemont to acquire a 47.5 percent stake in Yoox-Net-a-Porter has been terminated, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

The sale to Coupang comes after a weeks-long search for a rescuer willing to provide enough capital to keep Farfetch operating amid a worsening cash position and growing doubts about the pioneering luxury marketplace’s future. That the white knight came from outside, rather than one of its many high-profile backers, is a sign of how dire its situation had become.

On Nov. 28, Farfetch cancelled its scheduled release of quarterly results and told investors to disregard prior financial forecasts, following a report in The Telegraph that the company’s chief executive José Neves was in talks with top shareholders, including Alibaba and Richemont, and JP Morgan to take the company private. BoF previously reported that Farfetch was exploring other options, including tapping existing partners for new investments and selling off assets like its brand incubator New Guards Group, but a bailout had not yet been secured.

Those talks stalled, however. Richemont quickly issued a statement saying it would not invest further in Farfetch, and an Alibaba executive resigned from the marketplace’s board. In recent days, Neves was casting a wide net for emergency funding needed to stave off bankruptcy, including talks with Apollo Global Management.

In Coupang, Farfetch now has a parent with deep pockets and a belief in its marketplace model. Known as South Korea’s answer to Amazon, the company reported $20.6 billion in net revenue in 2022, and is one of the few homegrown giants to successfully defend its home market against Amazon and Alibaba. Like Farfetch, however, it has yet to turn a profit. Its share price is down nearly 75 percent from its 2021 initial public offering.

Immediately after the deal was announced Monday, Neves took steps to assure employees and vendors that it was business as usual at Farfetch.

Neves told staffers on Monday that Farfetch will “continue to pursue our ultimate goal of becoming the defining tech platform for the luxury industry,” according to an internal memo viewed by BoF.

Farfetch’s financial backers are unlikely to recoup their investment, however. The memo also said that equity for all shareholders, including employees, had been wiped out in the deal.

In a statement, Richemont said it did not expect $300 million in loans it had issued Farfetch to be repaid. While the $500 million bridge loan allows Farfetch to avoid insolvency, the company still has around $2.8 billion in financial obligations that include convertible notes, according to estimates from Bernstein. It also includes over $1 billion in term loans, such as a $200 million credit facility it took out in September.

The fate of Farfetch’s businesses beyond its core marketplace, including sneaker reseller Stadium Goods, UK department store Browns and Off-White operator New Guards Group, is also up in the air.

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