Phoon Huat buys majority stake in French foods retailer (updated)

Business Times | 8 Jun 2021 | Lynette Tan

BAKING supplies retailer Phoon Huat has acquired a majority stake in Le Petit Depot, a Singapore-based online retailer that specialises in French food products.

Phoon Huat now holds 91.5 per cent interest – made up of ordinary and preference shares – in Le Petit Depot, according to corporate records. The remaining shares are held by Le Petit Depot’s founders, Frenchmen Yannick Guédon and Frédéric Douvillé, and a holding firm, Oper8.

However, Phoon Huat told The Business Times (BT) that the preference shares will be considered “quasi debt”, so its stake in Le Petit Depot is essentially 70 per cent.

“The idea is not to give the money to the founders, but to put it into growing the company,” said Phoon Huat chief executive Shuichi Sato. He added that Le Petit Depot’s management will stay unchanged, and that its founders remain “meaningful shareholders in the business”.

Le Petit Depot has paid-up capital totalling S$3.5 million, the records show. The company was started in 2012 and now retails more than 8,000 products, from meats to wine.

In a joint statement on Monday, both businesses said the deal will allow them to “leverage each other’s strengths to grow their online businesses and extend the product range in retail stores under Phoon Huat”. This is as Phoon Huat and Le Petit Depot aim to double their sales volumes in three years.

Both companies will also work on reducing supply chain costs and optimising IT infrastructure. “To achieve efficiency is critical especially in the current environment where all costs are on an increasing trend,” they said.

For instance, a “significant” portion of Phoon Huat’s goods come from France, Mr Sato noted. Consolidating logistics with Le Petit Depot will therefore lead to greater economies of scale.

Phoon Huat hit S$100 million in revenue last year, propped up by a home-baking frenzy amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

But the company had little idea how the year would turn out, as the pandemic situation was fluid, Mr Sato told BT in February.

“It was difficult to have any expectation or prediction (during this period). We worked to handle the changing needs of our customers that were affected by the evolving Covid-19 situation,” he had said.

Phoon Huat currently has 19 retail stores in Singapore and an online shopping site.

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