Victoria plc: we’re going to need a bigger boat

You probably wouldn’t expect the chairman of a British carpet company to own a 200-foot yacht with a transparent grand piano on board.

But then again, Victoria plc is no ordinary carpet manufacturer.

At first glance, the company quoted in Aim appears to be a British manufacturer with royal connections. The Kidderminster-based business is over 120 years old, holding a royal order and famously provided the red carpet for the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011.

However, the current incarnation of Victoria really began the following year. In 2012, Jeff Wilding, a former investment banker from New Zealand, took the helm as executive chairman of the West Midlands carpet manufacturer after A heated six-month boardroom battle. Then Wilding went on an acquisition spree – or “carpet rolling”, if you like obvious puns – buying over 20 other flooring companies around the world in just under a decade.

Shareholders who supported Kiwi from the beginning were handsomely rewarded. Under Wilding’s watch, Victoria’s market value soared from just £15m to £1.4bn.

The company’s investor relations page leaves little doubt as to who is responsible for its success in the stock market. For years he carried not only a black-and-white portrait of Wilding, but also a calculator showing the return investors would have made if they had bought Victoria shares on the day he became chairman.

Victoria’s Investor Relations page

That buying progress in the share price has long drawn criticism from short sellers and skeptics.

In 2018, The Analyst – the stock research shop known for well-timed short recommendations on companies such as NMC Health and THG – published a series of negative reports scrutinizing Victoria’s purchases and Wilding’s business record.

Later that year, Victoria was forced cancel The planned debut bond deal, after its stock fell 40% in a week. Wilding said at the time that the company’s unclear communications to shareholders “left an open target for those with less pure motives to spread outrageous untruths,” in a not-so-veiled dig at its critics .

Victoria quickly bounced back, successfully floating the bond market in 2019 and then winning the backing of Koch Industries the following year. The sprawling American conglomerate bought recently issued preferred shares along with a significant chunk of the flooring company’s common equity. In the summer of 2021, the market capitalization of Victoria is back to over £1 billion.

However, things started to get complicated again this year, as the market soured on debt-laden businesses. Victoria’s share price has plunged nearly 70% year to date, while its bond yields have soared into double digits in recent weeks.

Wilding’s company also drew a reexamination of short sellers, with Iceberg Research Publication of a report Earlier this week we dug into the structure of some of her purchases. Victoria did not publicly comment on the report, but stock markets largely shrugged off its findings, with the company’s shares actually ending the day up nearly 9%.

But there was one aspect briefly mentioned in the report that FT Alphaville thought would be fun to dive into further: Jeff Wilding’s penchant for big boats.

Wilding’s resilience

Over the years, Wilding has sprinkled quotes from the likes of Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger throughout his messages to shareholders, making it clear that their returns are his top priority.

Since taking the helm, Victoria has also adopted a “mission statement” that expresses that goal quite literally: “To create wealth for our shareholders.”

Victoria certainly created great wealth for one particular shareholder: Geoff Wilding.

Shortly after becoming chairman, the New Zealander hit A A controversial contract-for-difference A plan with the board of directors that gave him a boost two years later. After paying just £20,000 to strike the CFD, Wilding received 7 million newly issued Victoria shares in July 2014, giving him a (later reduced) 49% stake in the company. By the end of the year, that stake was worth more than 30 A million pounds.

Shortly after Christmas 2014, Wilding incorporated a Maltese company to splash out on the quintessential rich man’s toy: a superyacht.

A document from the Maltese Business Registry

Resilience Charters Limited – of which the Maltese business register shows Wilding is the beneficial owner – took ownership of the 50m vessel shortly afterwards, renaming the six-year-old superyacht Resilience.

Owning a second-hand yacht is one thing, but the true mark of a successful carpet tycoon is buying a brand new custom boat.

In September 2017, the Italian shipbuilder ISA announced She sold a newly built yacht codenamed Project Rocco, a 65m vessel scheduled to be laid down in spring 2021. ISA Technical Director Gianpaolo Lapenna noted at the time that “the owner was deeply involved in the design phase together with his technical team. This yacht is truly ‘his’ after all the exams”.

By now you must have guessed the identity of the “owner”. The Maltese business register again shows that Wilding is the beneficial owner of Project Rocco Limited, which was incorporated shortly before the ISA was announced.

A document from the Maltese Business Registry

Shipping records show that Wilding sold his original boat in early 2020, which the new owner renamed Araba. The following year, ISA delivered Project Rocco, which Wilding named the Resilience, the same name as his previous yacht.

there it is:

The strength of Jeff Wilding’s 65m superyacht © Iprod

And here is a promotional video indicating its launch in July 2021:

If FT Alphaville readers are interested in chartering the ship, it can be yours for just €550,000 per week (plus expenses). the site YachtCharterFleet Amenities include two swimming pools, an outdoor cinema and “a toy box overflowing with the latest water sports accessories”. The photo gallery shows that it even has a transparent grand piano on board.

Needless to say, this is not a cheap boat. Maritime data service VesselsValue told FT Alphaville that it has a market value of more than $56 million.

How did Wilding afford such a well-equipped vessel?

The 58-year-old businessman had previous successful ventures, selling part of the Pacific Print Group in New Zealand to private equity. Back in 2005.

But between August 2015 and August 2018 he also sold more than £70m worth of Victoria shares, as well as taking out a margin loan on some of his stake through JPMorgan (then he bought £4.9m worth of shares at the end of 2018). Not bad for a guy who originally built his stake in the company by handing over just £20,000 to carry CFDs.

The Maltese business register also shows that Project Rocco Limited’s shares were pledged to HSBC’s Guernsey branch late last year.

A document from the Maltese Business Registry

Victoria plc told FT Alphaville that Wilding never withdrew the loan facility from JPMorgan. The company declined to comment on other matters.

FT Alphaville can’t be sure which side will ultimately benefit from the tussle over Victoria: its short sellers, such as Coltrane Asset Management, or its major shareholders, such as Spruce House Partnership.

However, one thing is for sure: Jeff Wilding has already made a load of money.

Victoria plc: we’re going to need a bigger boat Source link Victoria plc: we’re going to need a bigger boat

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