LONDON, United Kingdom — Speculation was swirling again today that Net-a-Porter, the pioneering fashion e-commerce retailer acquired by Swiss luxury goods group Richemont in 2010, might IPO next year. The rumours follow earlier speculation that Richemont was in talks with Net-a-Porter rival Yoox about a potential merger of the two fashion e-commerce giants.
Here's the thing. While Net-a-Porter has dropped into the red in recent years (losing about $16 million on revenues of about $840 million dollars in the year ending 29 March 2014, according to filings at Companies House) and raised eyebrows with the launch of its print magazine Porter, it undoubtedly remains one of the most desirable, modern and exciting businesses in the global fashion ecosystem. At various points in the development of the company, it has been courted by global media companies and luxury conglomerates, all of whom were aiming to inject some of Net-a-Porter's special digital sauce into their long-established businesses, which have struggled to keep up with the digital revolution.
Why Richemont — a company whose own fashion brands, including Dunhill, Lancel, Alaïa and Chloé remain digital laggards and have struggled to grow — would want to shed the most desirable business in its fashion portfolio remains a mystery. Last year, revenues at Net-a-Porter grew by 23 percent, while, in August of this year, Richemont reported that it's growth is flatlining, with only a 4 percent annual increase in the five months to the end of August 2014, down from 9 percent in the same five-month period a year earlier.
Rumours will continue to swirl around Net-a-Porter — and the company has not executed perfectly in recent months. But the smart money says that over the long-term, this is a business with real staying power.
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