Sat. May 28th, 2022


The UK taxpayer has become a shareholder in more than 100 UK companies, including the business behind the acquisition of Bolton Wanderers Football Club, an online bookmaker and the Black Sheep Coffee chain.

On Thursday, the government will reveal that its Future fund scheme providing financial assistance to often loss-making but fast-growing “innovative” businesses in the pandemic has taken stakes in 108 additional companies.

The total number of companies partly owned by the Treasury is now 265, according to data running until the end of last year. Launched in May 2020, the Future Fund provided up to £ 5 million to 1,190 companies through convertible loan agreements, worth a total of £ 1.14 billion. These loans are converted into equity interests when the company raises new money from its investors.

At the time of the launch, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the fund would focus on “start-ups and innovative firms … so that they can continue to break new ground in technology and innovation”.

Companies in which the Future Fund is now a shareholder include Football Ventures (Whites), which took over Bolton Wanderers in 2019; Big Wave Brands, which makes a vegan pineapple and chilli infusion; and private luxury villas company Edge Retreats.

Conilon, which owns the trendy coffee chain Black Sheep Coffee, also used the fund with low-calorie soft drink maker Punchy Drinks; Planks Clothing, a skiwear brand founded by former professional skier Jim Adlington who wore the GB Snowsport team; and Magic Carpet AI, a developer of investment instruments recently acquired by cryptocurrency company Blockchain.com, which enables investors to trade cryptocurrencies.

The company behind the trendy coffee chain Black Sheep Coffee has exploited the UK’s Future Fund Covid support scheme © Mike Kemp / In Pictures / Getty Images

Bolton Wanderers said in a statement that it had taken out a loan through the Future Fund during the pandemic, which has now been converted into equity at about 8 percent.

Gabriel Shohet, co-founder of Black Sheep Coffee, said the taxpayer, along with his other investors, would see “great returns”. He said the company wants to raise further funds this year at almost double the value the Future Fund has converted, with 46 new stores planned.

Other companies include BetConnect, an online bookmaker; Evendo, an online social media marketing company; and Glint Pay, a new venture that allows people to buy and use gold for daily spending.

While the government handles reports of parties held at closing at Number 10, the taxpayer also has a stake in Feast It, an event planning platform that connects party organizers with vendors and entertainment.

The British Business Bank, which administers the fund, said it has supported innovative UK companies that typically rely on equity investment to finance their growth. “By creating a bridge to the next round of equity funding, the Future Fund has supported these companies through a period of significant economic disruption and now recovery.”

Ken Cooper, managing director, venture capital solutions at British Business Bank said: “The Future Fund was created to increase the flow of capital to innovative companies at the height of the pandemic, while ensuring long-term value for the UK taxpayer.”

The Future Fund is also a shareholder in Wejo, a Manchester-based vehicle data company. The company is backed by General Motors and was announced by a special purpose acquisition company. A downturn in technology stocks has led the company to lose more than 60 percent of its share price since listing in November 2021.

The British Business Bank stated: “The Future Fund used a set of standard terms with published eligibility criteria. The process provided a clear, efficient way to make funding available as widely and as quickly as possible without the need for lengthy negotiations. Applications that met all the eligibility criteria received investment. ”



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