U.S. financial firm JP Morgan is continuing to buy up stakes in select Rocket Internet online fashion retailers – first in Europe (Zalando), then in Brazil (Dafiti) and now in Russia, with Rocket’s Lamoda today announcing a cash-for-equity deal, terms undisclosed.
According to an insider source speaking to Russian newspaper Kommersant, the deal could be worth between $40 million and $80 million, which would make it one of the largest investments so far in a fashion e-commerce company in Russia.
Lamoda, founded one-and-a-half years ago by Dominik Picker, Florian Jansen, Burkhard Binder and Niels Tonsen, now employs 800 people and claims about five million unique users.
It’s just one of about 100 companies built by Berlin-headquartered Rocket Internet, best-known for fast execution and a track record of cloning promising U.S. businesses in new markets. The Samwer brothers – Oliver, Marc and Alexander – founded Rocket in 2007.
Lessons from “blitzkrieg” email – Lamoda
TechCrunch reports the deal was made via a German holding company and reminds us of Oliver Samwer’s infamous “blitzkrieg” email apparently sent to the founders of the Rocket companies in October 2011. In that email, Samwer referenced mistakes made by the team in Russia, including with business reporting. Because of these mistakes, the unnamed founders had lost 50 percent of their equity and had gone without salary for six months, according to Samwer’s email.
While Samwer’s email never mentions “Lamoda” by name, the email was most likely addressing Lamoda’s founders because Rocket’s only other listed portfolio companies in Russia are international shopping club Westwing and Mebelrama, an online homewear shop founded in 2011 with a Facebook page only set up in November 2011.
Rocket Internet – become number one or shut shop?
Attracting JP Morgan investment alongside Zalando and Dafiti would appear to show a turnaround. While Zalando is still posting losses (despite €510m turnover in 2011), it’s considered the flagship within Rocket Internet’s online empire, with no trouble attracting investment from Rocket Internet regulars Holtzbrinck Ventures, Tengelmann Ventures and AB Kinnevik as well as Yuri Milner’s DST Global.
Lamoda co-founder Niels Tonsen said in a statement the new JP Morgan funds would be used to expand the company’s portfolio, currently sitting at 500,000 products from 700 mainstream and international brands, and its presence in countries outside Russia.
“The investment underlines our leading position in one of the world’s fastest growing markets,” he said. “It will allow us to further expand our product and brand portfolio as well as our presence in other emerging markets such as Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Belarus. We will continue to streamline our fulfillment and delivery processes and to enhance the online shopping experience for our customers.”
Rocket Internet is currently in the middle of a global portfolio shake-up, shutting down operations in Turkey after hiring hundreds over the course of about one year, and collapsing retailer Mizado into sister brand Namshi in the United Arab Emirates.
Rocket also recently agreed to sell 50 percent of its Latin American and African holding companies to telco group Millicom for €340 million, including the option for Millicom to acquire the rest at fair market value by 2016.
A version of this article was original published in VentureVillage, a VentureBeat Berlin-based content partner.