Judge me by results, not share price, says AO World
The founder of AO World has said that he “doesn’t look at the share price” of the household appliances retailer, which has plunged by more than 30 per cent since it floated seven months ago.
John Roberts said in an interview with Retail Week: “I don’t look at the share price [of AO.com]. We’ve done everything or more that we said we would and the stock trades below where it was. So what can you do?”
AO.com made one of the highest-profile debuts in February, when it floated at 285p a share, valuing it at £1.2 billion. Hefty fees of £19.7 million to City advisers who masterminded the flotation wiped out annual profits at the seller of household appliances and the share price has been volatile since then. On Friday shares in AO.com closed down at 195½p a share — about 32 per cent below the issue price of 285p.
Mr Roberts, who has returned from a seven-week break in Los Angeles after the company’s listing, shrugged off questions over whether the online retailer had been overvalued.
Speaking to The Times, he said: “My comment as far as the share price was concerned was a little bit tongue-in-cheek. I am one of the biggest shareholders by far [in AO.com] and the majority of my family’s wealth is tied up in this company, so of course I care about the share price.
“And of course I am aware that the majority of the strategic investors [who bought into the flotation] are technically under water, but I can’t control the share price so I can’t worry about it every day. My job is to do what we said we would do when we floated the company.”
Mr Roberts said that he spoke regularly to key investors in the Bolton-based company and said that they were “materially happy with the situation because the business is in great shape”.
The company has wrestled customers away from high street stores by offering a wide choice and next-day delivery on washing machines, refrigerators, cookers and dishwashers.
AO World’s success has turned Mr Roberts, a former kitchen appliances salesman, into one of Britain’s wealthiest internet entrepreneurs, with a personal fortune estimated at £410 million byThe Sunday Times Rich List.
“Anybody can be flippant with their remarks, but anyone with more than a pea-sized brain would realise that if you build up a company yourself, of course you care about it,” Mr Roberts said. “A third of the staff [in AO.com] bought into the company’s share save scheme, so I care about their perception of the company, too.
“I have always said I do my talking on the pitch and the share price will take care of itself. It’s whether we deliver results that matters. We’re not in this for a two-week journey. I’ve been here for 14 years.”
Mr Roberts said that although he had been on a seven-week holiday he was “always working . . . I always know what is going on in this business.”