02.08.2021

Samarkand To Float On AQSE

Samarkand Group Limited, the cross-border eCommerce technology and retail group opening up the world’s largest market for brands and retailers, is pleased to announce its intention to apply for admission of its Ordinary Shares to trading on the Aquis Stock Exchange Growth Market (“Admission”).

The Company is proposing to raise approximately £10m by way of a placing to institutional investors (the “Placing”) and a subscription to qualifying investors (the “Subscription”) (together the “Fundraising”).

The Company will be listed on the Apex segment of the AQSE Growth Market. Admission is targeted for March 2021.

Samarkand Highlights

  • Headquartered in London, Samarkand is a cross-border eCommerce (“CBEC”) company focused on connecting Western brands with China, the world’s largest eCommerce market.
  • The Board of Directors on Admission will comprise a team that is highly experienced in retail and eCommerce, including; Tanith Dodge former group HR Director of Marks & Spencer Group Plc and Value Retail (Bicester Village Collection) who is also a member of the advisory council of PwC and serves on the Board of Robert Walters Plc and; Keith Higgins who served as eCommerce Director at P&G for 10 years before heading up Unilever’s global eCommerce strategy for a further 10 years leading to his current role as Chief Customer Development Officer at Unilever plc.
  • The Group’s proprietary software platform, Nomad, covers commerce, distribution, logistics, payments and analytics.
  • For the year ended 31 March 2020, the Group’s revenue was £6.8 million (2019: £4.5 million), its EBITDA loss was £0.8 million (2019: £1.0 million) and its loss before tax was £1.3 million (2019: £1.2 million).
  • For the eight-month period ended 30 November 2020, the Group’s revenue was £16.0 million (2019: £3.8 million) including exceptional revenue of £5.8m, its EBITDA profit was £2.3 million (2019: loss £0.8 million) and its profit before tax was £1.8 million (2019: loss £1.1 million).
  • The Group achieved a turnover of approximately £1.8 million for the month of November 2020 alone.
  • Samarkand works with a growing list of leading European brands such as 111SKIN, Shay & Blue, Omorovicza, ICONIC London, Philip Kingsley, Temple Spa, Zita West Products, and Planet Organic.
  • The Group has successfully grown its own brand, Probio7, acquired in December 2017. Using its technology, distribution and market intel revenues have grown from £1.2 million for the 11 months prior to acquisition to £3.5 million for the 12-month period ended December 2020.
  • Samarkand has its own fulfilment operations and partners with global logistics providers into Asia.
  • The Group currently employs over 90 people across its UK and China operations.

David Hampstead, Co-Founder and CEO of Samarkand said:

“The Chinese eCommerce market is larger than the next 10 markets combined and more than 50c of every dollar spent online globally happens in China, yet many Western brands have struggled to penetrate this market effectively. Since 2016, Samarkand has been helping these brands penetrate and maximise their exposure in this key territory.

“We established Samarkand to provide a more direct-to-consumer route to the world’s largest eCommerce market reducing the risks, costs and barriers to entry that have discouraged Western brands from entering the Chinese market for so long.

“With the recent global events and the full impact of Brexit starting to be felt by brands and retailers it has never been more important for companies to reach new markets. In the first few months of 2020 China added 92m new eCommerce consumers, more than the entire population of Germany, bringing the number of active consumers to 715m.

“With our suite of solutions we are ideally placed to take advantage of the rapid market expansion and the macro-economic changes that are taking place. We have achieved 166% like-for-like growth in recurring revenue in the 8 months to 30 November 2020 vs the prior period and grown our list of brand partners and number of deployments of our technology.

“The listing on Aquis will enable us to access capital which can accelerate our momentum, maximise the opportunity ahead and deliver outstanding results for all stakeholders. We look forward to welcoming new investors at an extremely exciting time for the Group and to sharing a highly prosperous future.”

Alasdair Haynes, founder and CEO of Aquis Exchange said:

“We are delighted about the prospect of Samarkand listing on the Apex segment of the Aquis Stock Exchange growth market. Samarkand is a compelling story, supporting retailers in expanding their online presence at a time when a strong eCommerce strategy has never been more relevant.

“We believe that this is a very exciting story which will appeal to both quality institutions and private investors alike. Aquis is proud to have made it possible for private investors to participate in the listing process.

“AQSE offers growth companies, like Samarkand, a great home to develop, underpinned by best in class trading technology, high governance standards and proportionate rules and systems. A listing on Apex is ideal for a fast growth technology business with its narrow spreads and restrictions on short selling. We look forward to seeing where Samarkand goes next on its exciting journey.”

Samarkand’s main technology and service solutions are:

Nomad Checkout, a Software as a Service (“SaaS”) based solution that integrates with popular eCommerce software providers, such as Shopify, and enables Clients to introduce their products through their own eCommerce website to Chinese consumers, with the sale finalised on the Nomad platform in China. Nomad Checkout allows Chinese consumers to use payment methods popular in China, such as Alipay and WeChat Pay, and benefit from improved delivery methods and product authenticity. An “Enterprise” version is already in use by one of Europe’s largest eCommerce companies.

Nomad Storefront supports the operation of eCommerce stores on well-known Chinese platforms (such as Tmall, Xiaohongshu, amongst others) on behalf of Clients. Delivered as a managed service from the Group’s office in Shanghai, the platform provides product management, order processing, stock management and analytics across multiple eCommerce platforms giving Clients a consolidated solution to the fragmented Chinese CBEC market.

Nomad Commerce offers customisable eCommerce solutions for Clients that want to establish their own eCommerce presence in China. Integrated with the dominant payment providers such as AliPay and WeChat Pay it also supports a content management system, recommendation engine and detailed analytics and event tracking. Hosted on AliCloud infrastructure in China to provide low-latency, high speed experience for consumers not impacted by Chinese internet restrictions which often effect sites hosted outside of China.

Nomad Distribution allows Clients to access key opinion leaders (“KOLs”) and celebrities to generate sales in China’s fast growing social commerce space. Social commerce has emerged as a driving force of eCommerce in China in recent years and estimated at CNY 3,703 billion (£423 billion) of Gross Merchandise Value (“GMV”) in 2020. As well as providing Clients access to this sector, it also enables their products to be drop-shipped through CBEC directly to consumers in China.

In 2021 the CBEC market in China is forecast to reach £138 billion, growing from £14 billion in 2014. The growth in the Chinese CBEC market has been supported by the introduction of a range of policies and infrastructure by the Chinese government to encourage the growth of the sector (including the introduction of 105 special CBEC Zones across the country and the relaxation of testing and registration requirements, such as animal testing for skincare products). China, already the world leader in eCommerce has, like the rest of the world, experienced an acceleration in online shopping habits because of the covid-19 pandemic. It is also one of the few economies still reporting growth. Samarkand has experienced a 166% growth in recurring revenue in the 8 months to 30 November 2020 during the height of the pandemic compared to the same period the year before.

Expected IPO and Fundraising highlights

  • Admission to trading on the Apex segment of the Aquis Stock Exchange Growth Market.
  • Placing to certain institutional investors and a Subscription to qualifying investors raising gross proceeds of c.£10 million.
  • Immediately following Admission, the Company intends to have a free float of at least 25 per cent. of the Company’s issued share capital.
  • Net proceeds raised will primarily be used to:
    • further develop its Nomad Platform’s functionality and services;
    • expand the Group’s business development activities; and
    • make further strategic acquisitions.

Samarkand has appointed VSA Capital Limited (“VSA”) as Broker in relation to the Fundraising and VSA will be appointed as AQSE Corporate Adviser to the Company from Admission.

Investment Highlights

  • Strong and experienced management team. Comprised of individuals who worked successfully together in previous digital businesses, that were sold to Gaming Realms plc (AIM: GMR) achieving a significant uplift for shareholders and investors.
  • Experienced Board from eCommerce, HR and finance. It is expected on Admission the Board will include:
  • Tanith Dodge (Chairperson) previous HR director for Marks & Spencer Group Plc, currently serves on the Board of Robert Walters plc and the advisory board of PwC Bicester Village Collection, Marks & Spencer Group PLC and WH Smiths PLC;
  • Keith Higgins (Non-Executive Director), Global SVP of eCommerce and Chief Customer Development Officer Unilever plc; and
  • Jeanette Hern (Non-Executive Director) who is currently group CFO for Global Smollan Holdings, a multi-national retail service company that employs 80,000 people worldwide.
  • Strong technical ability.  Technology is central to the Group’s strategy and execution. David Hampstead, Group CEO, is a trained software developer and members of the Group’s executive and senior management team have degrees in computer science.
  • Strong track record of increasing growth. The Group has shown significant resilience against the backdrop of the ongoing pandemic, maintaining triple digit sales growth despite disruptions in global supply chains, consumer confidence and spending. Revenue during the eight-month period ended 30 November 2020 stood at £16.0 million, increasing from £3.8 million in the same prior period.
  • Strong and growing reputation for Client service and operational excellence. Recognised by the British Chamber of Commerce in China as a finalist in the 2020 UK Exporter of the Year awards. Has a 100 per cent. client retention rate, having received numerous positive testimonials from its clients and its Nomad Storefront solution.
  • Strong partnerships enabling rapid growth. The Group works closely with a leading Chinese express company and has launched a joint technology solution for one of Europe’s biggest eCommerce companies, successfully delivered in November 2020. The Group intends to build further key business relationships and partnerships.
  • Attractive mix of products and solutions to Clients and consumers. The traditional method of entering the Chinese eCommerce market often precludes many brands that have great potential in China from being able to consider entering the market. The traditional method relies on working with distributors and trade partners, either placing stock on consignment in China or selling stock on a wholesale basis. This represents a stock risk as companies sacrifice margin and control for access to the market. The Nomad suite of solutions allows a Client to take the first steps toward this market on lower cost basis and with fulfilment centres in the UK and Europe with a lower risk on stock. This also means that consumers in China can experience interesting new products from companies that would have otherwise not been able to reach them.
  • Samarkand’s Nomad technology is enabling the growth of own brands. The Directors believe that a combination of brand ownership and eCommerce technology will be a competitive advantage in the future. Brand ownership allows the Group to exercise new technology before providing these services and solutions to Clients. The Group’s Nomad technology and insight has supported its own brand, Probio7, to grow rapidly in the Chinese market, generating £1.7million of additional sales through this strategy in the first 20 months of launch.

Source: Samarkand

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