A portfolio of Dutch e-commerce businesses including popular fashion site Wehkamp.nl are close to being snapped up by British investor Apax as part of its €450 million deal for RFS Holland Holding.

Reports from the Netherlands press indicate that both parties are nearing an agreement which would see former mail-order business Wehkamp traded to a UK owner. 

Apax Partners is a London-headquartered private equity group who has plenty of ties to the fashion world, completing a $1.6 billion deal for the Tommy Hilfiger Corporation in 2006. 

RFS is considered an online retailer specialist with properties including Wehkamp, homewares store Fonq and appliances merchant Create2Fit.  

Purchase in the works

The deal could hand some serious cash to major RFS shareholders Ad Scheepbouwer, Paul Nijhof and Berend van der Maat, who together own 80% of the company. 

Two of the parties boasted prior connections to RFS before their majority share purchase in 2008, with Nifhof and van der Maat formerly serving as CEO of the holding group and CFO of Wehkamp respectively. 

Scheepbouwer also has a strong background in business having previously held a CEO position at Netherlands telecommunications firm KPN.  

But the last seven years haven’t been easy for the trio. Despite clocking 100 million visitors per year and an annual dispatch of 5 million shipments, Wehkamp – RFS’s prime asset – was put up for sale in 2011 following a slow transition from catalogue to e-commerce. 

It was taken down a year later and went on to report turnover of 590 million between 2012/2013, up 8% on the year before.

Subject to a purchase being completed, it will be up to Apax to ensure the likes of Wehkamp realise their potential in the Netherlands’ growing e-commerce sector, valued at 13.96 billion by GfK last year.