Game Group eyes flotation after bumper Christmas

Xbox One and Sony PS4 sales helped Game Group over the festive period. Picture: Getty
Xbox One and Sony PS4 sales helped Game Group over the festive period. Picture: Getty
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DEMAND for titles to play on Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s Playstation 4 consoles helped retailer Game Group to chalk up a surge in sales over Christmas.

The bumper festive figures mark a major turnaround for the firm, which fell into administration in 2012 but is now eyeing a stock market listing.

Game could be valued as high as £300 million by an initial public offering (IPO), with the firm understood to be on the verge of naming stockbrokers Canaccord Genuity, HSBC and Liberum Securities to advise it on the flotation.

OpCapita, the turnaround specialist run by American tycoon Henry Jackson, led a consortium of private equity investors that bought the company out of administration, following the closure of 277 shops.

Jackson, below, has since opened 12 shops to take the chain back up to 318 outlets, which together employ about 3,000 staff.

Total sales in the six weeks to 4 January jumped by 83 per cent compared to market growth of 53 per cent, according to analysis by research firm GFK.

Like-for-like store sales – which strip out the closure or opening of shops – rose by 90 per cent, while online sales soared by 213 per cent.

Chief executive Martyn Gibbs said: “In a market delivering rapid growth, Game achieved record market shares across all product categories. This strong overall performance for our second peak trading period was driven by our ability to capitalise on the hugely-successful launches of Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4.

“This was supported by the release of well-received new games, significant growth in online and digital sales and the continued success of our pre-owned games offering.”

OpCapita is best-known for buying electricals retailer Comet from London-listed Kesa for a token £2 but was criticised when the chain collapsed in 2012 with the loss of 6,000 jobs.

Some in the City have questioned the market’s appetite for Game’s flotation, with retailers including B&M Bargains, Card Factory, House of Fraser, Pets At Home and Poundland also among those reportedly exploring stock market listings.

Bargain Booze-owner Conviviality Retail and clothing retailer Bonmarche have already floated in recent months.

Retail analyst Nick Bubb noted: “The game console cycle should have some legs left in it and chief executive Martyn Gibbs seems to have done a good job of turning the business around, but whether the stock market will warm to the IPO story remains to be seen.

“We had been hearing from industry sources that Game had seen amazing sales growth at Christmas, on the back of the two new game console launches, but the trading update from the fast-recovering Game flags that growth was no less than 90 per cent like-for-like. It is less than two years since Game went bust and was bought by the controversial private equity fund OpCapita of Comet fame.”