FINANCE NEWS: Cafedirect offers shares to public

Cafedirect, the fair-trade hot drinks company, is to launch its first public share issue, providing what is likely to be the most significant ethical investment opportunity in recent years.

The company, which was established in 1991 by Oxfam, Traidcraft, Equal Exchange and Twin Trading to improve the lot of coffee growers in developing countries, hopes to raise £5m through the share issue.

As the only hot drinks company in the UK to sell exclusively fair-trade products, Cafedirect has enjoyed increasing popularity over the past decade.

The company's products are now stocked in most major supermarkets and Cafedirect brand coffee is also sold in branches of Costa Coffee. The money raised from the shares will be used to build on this success.

"The funds will offer the potential to successfully achieve our future plans, with the ultimate aim of engaging and working with an increasing number of producers," said Cafedirect's chief executive Newman. "The share issue will widen ownership of the company to include our consumers and producer partners. Our shareholders will be at the heart of our business with the opportunity to engage, have a voice and be involved in its future."

The share issue also provides charities, individuals, and companies that are interested in investing ethically with a significant opportunity.

"Ethical investment is an exciting and rapidly growing area, and Cafedirect's share issue could be the highest profile offer of this kind to date," said Charles Middleton, managing director of Triodos, the social bank that is handling the share issue. "Increasingly, investors want their money to benefit them and make a genuine, tangible, positive change. Investing in Cafedirect has the potential to do just that."

The share issue is expected to open to the public in February, and full details will be given on Cafedirect's website. The company plans to run on-pack promotions to make its customers aware of the investment opportunity, and will also send targeted direct mail to those with a known interest, including supporters of the founding charities.

The shares will be made available through Triodos Ethex, the bank's ethical stock exchange that allows investors to trade in approved ethical stocks and shares. The minimum investment will be £300.

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