March 30, 2017 / 10:11 AM / 6 months ago

AO World raises capital as a buffer against tough markets

* Raises 50 mln stg in placing at 132.5 pence a share

* Sees at best break-even in earnings for year to end-March

* Shares up 1.5 pct

LONDON, March 30 (Reuters) - Online retailer AO World raised 50 million pounds ($62 million) on Thursday to underpin its balance sheet as it navigates an uncertain outlook in Britain, its biggest market, and the impact of the lower pound on supplier prices.

Chief Executive Steve Caunce said the capital raising - the company’s first since it floated two years ago - would support continued expansion in its product range and European footprint, after strong revenue growth in its fiscal year ending on Friday.

“This was achieved in spite of the challenging dynamics in our markets,” he said.

The company said in a trading update it would at best break even in the year ending March; in January it had said it could make adjusted core earnings of up to 4.7 million pounds.

It kept the bottom of its guidance range unchanged at a loss of 2.4 million pounds.

Although revenue was seen up 17 percent to around 700 million pounds, that is at the bottom of guidance.

The company said it was cautious about trading in Britain given the uncertain economic outlook, the impact of currency on supplier pricing and the possible effect on consumer demand.

A fall in the value of the pound of more than 15 percent against the dollar since Britain’s vote to leave the European Union last year is pushing up costs for retailers that import goods. The pressure is staring to feed through to shelf prices, pushing up inflation and squeezing consumers.

Shares in AO World were up 1.5 percent at 140 pence on Thursday morning, as analysts at Jefferies, who have a “buy” rating on the company, said it was navigating the market well.

“In a challenging market, AO has hung on to the lower end of the guide, 700 million pounds in revenue terms - quietly impressive we feel,” they said.

AO World said it had placed 37.7 million new shares, representing about 9 percent of its capital, at 132.5 pence a share.

$1 = 0.8050 pounds Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Mark Potter

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