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Market Volatility Weighs On IPOs This Week

The recent declines are tamping down prospects for Express, one of the country's biggest clothing retailers, market watchers say. Express hopes to raise about $304 million this week.

The 30-year-old chain's 573 stores sell clothes aimed at men and women in their 20s. Express is going public after spending the past few years improving its marketing process, launching its online store and revamping its clothing offerings, shifting from a focus on work outfits to one centered on casual and party wear and jeans.

It reported net income of $75.3 million on revenue of $1.7 billion in the year ended Jan. 30. The Columbus, Ohio-based chain said on April 30 that it expected a key revenue measure to rise 10 percent to 12 percent in the quarter ended May 1, with net revenue growing 11 percent to 13 percent.

It plans to open about 30 new stores a year for the next five years as the retail sector recovers from the recession.

But a roadblock for investors may be Express' plans for its proceeds. Instead of using the IPO to grow the company, it plans to use nearly all the money to prepay debt and make payments to its private equity sponsor, Golden Gate Private Equity Inc., and its former owner, Limited Brands Inc. The San Francisco firm acquired its 75 percent stake in the chain from Limited Brands in 2007 for $485 million. Express has since paid more than $556 million to Golden Gate in dividends.

Golden Gate also plans to sell at least 3.8 million shares in the offering.

"The marketplace hasn't taken too keenly to private equity firms placing their deals on the public market," Fitzgibbon said. Invstors are suspicious that banks and companies are trying to overprice shares, analysts say.

Last week, snowplow maker Douglas Dynamics Inc., backed by Aurora Capital Group and Ares Management LP, priced 25 percent below its expected range. Warehouse real estate investment trust Americold Realty Trust, owned by Ron Burkle's Yucaipa Cos., didn't make it to market at all. In early April, shares of Metals USA Holdings Corp., taken public by Apollo Management LP, tumbled 8.6 percent in their first day of trading â¿¿ after pricing above expectations. The stock is still more than 25 percent below its offering price.

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