UK Treasury takes stakes in Bolton Wanderers and Black Sheep Coffee

The UK taxpayer has become a shareholder in more than 100 British companies, including the business behind the takeover of Bolton Wanderers football club, an online bookmakers and the Black Sheep Coffee chain.

On Thursday, the government will reveal that its Future Fund scheme offering financial help for often lossmaking but fast-growth “innovative” businesses in the pandemic has taken stakes in 108 additional companies.

The total number of companies part-owned by the Treasury is now 265, according to data running up to the end of last year. Launched in May 2020, the Future Fund provided up to £5m to 1,190 companies through convertible loan agreements, worth £1.14bn in total. These loans convert into equity stakes when the business raises new money from its investors.

At the time of the launch, chancellor Rishi Sunak said the fund would go to supporting “start-ups and innovative firms . . . so that they can continue to break new ground in technology and innovation”.

Companies in which the Future Fund is now a shareholder include Football Ventures (Whites), which took over Bolton Wanderers in 2019; Big Wave Brands, which makes a vegan pineapple and chilli infused spirit; and private luxury villas company Edge Retreats.

Conilon, which owns trendy coffee chain Black Sheep Coffee, also used the fund alongside low-calorie soft-drink maker Punchy Drinks; Planks Clothing, a skiwear brand founded by former professional skier Jim Adlington that has dressed the GB Snowsport team; and Magic Carpet AI, a developer of investment tools recently acquired by cryptocurrency company, allowing investors to trade cryptocurrencies.

The company behind the trendy coffee chain Black Sheep Coffee tapped the UK’s Future Fund Covid support scheme © Mike Kemp/In Pictures/Getty Images

Bolton Wanderers said in a statement that it “took out a loan via the Future Fund during the pandemic which has now been converted in equity at approximately 8 per cent”.

Gabriel Shohet, co-founder of Black Sheep Coffee, said that the taxpayer would see “great return” alongside its other investors. He said the company was looking to raise further funds this year at almost double the value that the Future Fund converted, with 46 new shops being planned.

Other companies include BetConnect, an online bookmaker; Evendo, an online social events marketing company; and Glint Pay, a start-up that lets people buy and use gold for everyday spending.

As the government deals with reports of parties held at Number 10 during lockdown, the taxpayer has also taken a stake in Feast It, an events planning platform that connects party organisers with suppliers and entertainment.

The British Business Bank, which administers the fund, said it had supported innovative UK companies that typically rely on equity investment to fund their growth. “By creating a bridge to the next equity funding round, the Future Fund supported these companies through a period of considerable economic disruption and now the recovery.”

Ken Cooper, managing director, venture capital solutions at British Business Bank said: “The Future Fund was created to increase the flow of capital to innovative companies at the height of the pandemic, while ensuring long-term value for the UK taxpayer.”

The Future Fund is also a shareholder in Wejo, a Manchester-based vehicle data company. The company is backed by General Motors and was taken public by a special purpose acquisition company. A downturn for tech stocks has seen the company lose more than 60 per cent of its share price since listing in November 2021.

The British Business Bank said: “The Future Fund used a set of standard terms with published eligibility criteria. The process provided a clear, efficient way to make funding available as widely and as swiftly as possible without the need for lengthy negotiations. Applications that met all the eligibility criteria received investment.”

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