Eyeing China, Blue jeans creator Levi's goes public

Published on 03/22 2019  Source: China Daily

Its name and logo are recognized around the world, and now Levi's, which created blue jeans in 1873 and traces its roots to the California Gold Rush, will seek to turn blue into green by going public on Thursday.

Levi Strauss plans to raise up to $587 million through the IPO. The San Francisco-based company said Monday that it is offering approximately 9.5 million shares. The stock is expected to be priced between $14 and $16 each, analysts said. The company will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "LEVI."

Levi's first went public in 1971, but descendants of founder Levi Strauss, who died in 1902, took the company private again in 1985 in a leveraged buyout. They still own a controlling stake.

Levi's said that it plans to use the proceeds from going public for "general corporate purposes," including working capital, operating expenses and capital expenditures.

The company reported revenue of $5.6 billion in 2018, up 14 percent from a year earlier. Levi's has been expanding overseas, and said it makes close to half its sales in Europe and Asia. It believes it has a huge growth opportunity in China, which accounts for 20 percent of the global apparel market but only 3 percent of Levi's revenue.

"We have significant opportunity to grow by expanding beyond our core business," the company said in the filing.

According to the company's history, Levi Strauss and his siblings immigrated to the US from Bavaria and settled in New York City. With news of the California Gold Rush, Levi went to San Francisco in 1853. Instead of panning for gold, he established a wholesale dry goods business under his own name and served as the West Coast representative of the family's New York company. Levi eventually renamed his company Levi Strauss & Co.

On May 20, 1873, he and a business partner received a patent for "waist overalls" with metal rivets at points of strain to make them last longer, now known as the blue jean.

The company was faced with the patent to its pants expiring in 1890, so it developed a logo to be sewn on the back of its pants to identify them: the image of two horses, each pulling in the opposite direction on the same pair of jeans, trying in vain to tear them apart. The pants were called "The Two Horse Brand" until 1928, when the company adopted its Levi's trademark.

Levi's IPO comes at a time of increased competition in the denim industry. Many consumers have turned to khakis and athletic pants, designer jeans and private low-cost label brands, all of which have hurt Levi's sales.

But demand for denim has improved recently, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Chen Grazutis. The denim market "is better than a couple of years ago," he said. "It's steady, with low-single digit growth."

The company changed management in 2011, and since then cut debt and staff, and opened a huge flagship store in Times Square.(Source: China Daily)