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Mars to buy Hotel Chocolat to help expansion overseas

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Confectionery giant Mars has announced it will buy Hotel Chocolat for £534m to help the UK company expand overseas.

Hotel Chocolat said the deal would allow the brand to “grow further and faster”.

“We know our brand resonates with consumers overseas, but operational supply chain challenges have held us back,” said Hotel Chocolat chief executive Angus Thirlwell.

The company is mostly based in the UK with 124 shops, but has some overseas.

Mr Thirlwell said: “By partnering with Mars, we can grow our international presence much more quickly using their skills, expertise and capabilities.”

Following the announcement of the deal, the retailer’s share price soared by more than 160% to 365.21p.

Hotel Chocolat’s overseas expansion has been costly and problematic.

In September last year, it announced the closure of its five shops in the US at a cost of £3.5m, but it continues to sell online, focusing on its Velvetiser hot chocolate-maker.

Earlier this year, it announced a joint venture in Japan with Tokyo’s Eat Creator Corporation to set up 21 Hotel Chocolat shops after its first deal fell apart.

It previously had a partnership with Chris Horobin, the former boss of QVC Japan, to open stores in the country. However, that deal ended and resulted in Hotel Chocolat writing off nearly £22m.

The company now holds a 20% stake in the joint venture with Eat Creator and will receive royalties from the deal.

It also owns an estate in Saint Lucia, which has a 140 acre farm that produces organic cacao and is where the company operates the Rabot Hotel.

In its most recent results, Hotel Chocolat disclosed impairment charges on the estate because of “continued Covid-19 disruption where visitor numbers to the island have not recovered to pre-pandemic levels”.

The company also has shops in Ireland and Gibraltar.

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