Levi Strauss Shares Surge 31 Percent in Stock Market Return

By Reuters
March 21, 2019 Updated: April 14, 2020

Shares in Levi Strauss & Co. surged 31 percent in their debut on March 21, giving the jeans maker a market value of $8.7 billion and suggesting strong investor appetite before much-awaited listings from Lyft and Uber.

The 165-year-old U.S. company’s return to the public market comes at a time when stocks are near all-time highs and the popularity of denim is surging, driven by the resurgence of 1990s styles such as high-waist and pinstripe jeans.

The self-proclaimed inventor of the blue jeans, which has grown to become one of the world’s most recognized denim brands, Levi Strauss hopes to use a part of the proceeds from the IPO to expand in emerging markets such as Brazil, China, and India.

“Denim continues to prove prevalent in streetwear and on the runway, so we’re not expecting it to go anywhere any time soon,” an analyst at retail analytics firm Edited said. “That’s why now is a great time for Levi’s to capitalize on this momentum.”

Levi accounted for 5 percent of the global jeans market in 2018, according to market research firm Euromonitor. The market has remained flat from 2013 to 2018 but is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 2 percent until 2023 if prices remain at 2018 levels.

Levi first went public in 1971. It then sold 1.27 million shares at $47 each and the stock opened at $60, according to a New York Times report. After 14 years, it was taken private by the Haas family, the descendants of founder Levi Strauss, in a $1.6 billion leveraged buyout.

Levi’s second IPO was priced at $17, above the expected range, in an oversubscribed offering. By the afternoon of March 21, the shares had hit a high of $23.15.

The Haas family will retain 80 percent voting control of the public company. The company’s $8.7 billion market capitalization at the start of trading is based on outstanding shares of about 390 million, which includes the over-allotment option.

“There is a lot to like when it comes to Levi Strauss the brand and its outlook moving forward,” said Jeff Zell, senior research analyst, and partner at IPO tracking firm, IPO Boutique.

“The company and the underwriters targeted a reasonable valuation to start and allowed the true investor demand to dictate price which ultimately came one-dollar above range.”

Levi’s revenue rose 14 percent to $5.6 billion in 2018, the bulk of which came from men’s denim. Its biggest market is the Americas, accounting for 55 percent of overall revenue.

The San Francisco-based company sells in 110 countries through 50,000 retail stores, and its rivals include Gap Inc. and VF Corp.’s Lee and Wrangler brands.

To attract young customers, Levi’s is planning to expand its tailor shop and print bar that allow consumers to customize and put their own designs on the company’s branded jeans and T-shirts.

Levi’s market splash also marks the start of what could be a blockbuster year for IPOs with several high profile companies expected to list their shares.

Ride-hailing service provider Lyft Inc kicked off the investor roadshow for its market debut on March 18, while larger rival Uber is expected to go public in April.

The line-up also includes photo-posting app Pinterest, home-renting service provider Airbnb and business messaging app Slack.


By Diptendu Lahiri & Aishwarya Venugopal