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AO.com to IPO as Google defies laws of physics to buy stake in Lenovo

Online appliances firm AO.com has become the latest to announce its intentions to float - and there's something fishy going on at Google...

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 25 Feb 2015

Online appliances store AO.com (formerly, it may not surprise you to learn, ‘Appliances Online’) has added its voice to the chorus of firms planning to float on the London Stock Exchange this year. Although its timescale is more ambitious than, say, TSB, which will only go public in April at the very earliest: AO wants to float next month.

If MT is honest, it hadn’t actually heard of AO.com until its washing machine exploded last month – but it turns out the Bolton-based company has 24% of the online appliance market and is valued at about £1bn, although it is only planning to list about £60m of shares. What’s more, it manages appliances websites for the likes of Boots, M&S, Next and B&Q, and last year made sales of £275.5m, up almost 30% on the year before. So it’s hardly small fry.

The company, which is currently 40% owned by John Roberts, has hired Brian McBride, currently the chairman of UK online success story Asos, to its board. Roberts apparently started it because, after an evening listening to him whining about bad customer service in the electronics trade, a mate told him to go and have a go himself.

Elsewhere in tech land, has Google invented the time machine? Last night Chinese PC manufacturer Lenovo quietly issued a stock exchange announcement suggesting the search giant had paid $750m for a 6% stake in the Chinese firm on January 30. Which happened to be the very day Google sold its mobile manufacturing business, Motorola Mobility, to Lenovo, to much cheering and whooping from shareholders.

The fact that Google would buy a stake in Lenovo when it had only just divested itself of Motorola Mobility, which had been dragging its share price down, seems weird, but it was actually part of Lenovo’s payment for Motorola Mobility). Some reports have pointed out that actually, the filing shows Google hasn’t bought the shares yet – it could buy them, when the deal closes.

It’s confusing stuff, but neatly summarised by Techcrunch, which went with the time-and-space bending ‘Google may pay $750m for a stake in Lenovo Group on Jan. 30’. And there we were thinking the company’s most futuristic technology was a driverless car…

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