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TheStreet Open House

Lululemon Advances After Founder Sells Shares to PE Investor

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Shares of yoga apparel maker lululemon (LULU) are climbing after the company's founder agreed to sell half of his stake. However, research firm Jefferies wrote that the company's inappropriate strategy is likely to keep its margins under pressure.

WHAT'S NEW: Lululemon founder Chip Wilson agreed to sell about half of his stake in the company, representing nearly 14% of its total shares, to private equity firm Advent International, the company reported last night. Wilson will receive about $845M for the shares, and Advent will obtain two seats on luluemon's board.

BACKGROUND: Wilson had said before lululemon's annual meeting in June that he would vote against re-electing the company's board because he thought it was too focused on short-term issues. The founder then hired Goldman Sachs as a financial adviser. Last year, after lululemon had to recall some of its pants because they were too shear, Wilson blamed the problem on the shape of some women's bodies. He resigned his position as Chairman of lululemon's board after the statement caused controversy.

ANALYST REACTION: In a note to investors today, Jefferies analyst Christian Buss wrote that the sale of Wilson's shares is positive for lululemon, as it will enable the company's board to cease being distracted by bickering and focus on developing and carrying out a strategic plan. However, Buss still believes that the company is incorrectly looking to expand its products to new markets, categories and demographic groups. Such a strategy is inappropriate, given the significant challenges the company has faced with its core products and customers, the analyst contended. Although lululemon's brand is still strong, its margins are likely to remain under pressure as long as it continues its current strategy and its earnings growth is likely to be limited as a result, Buss forecast. He kept a $38 price target and Neutral rating on the stock.

PRICE ACTION: In early trading, lululemon climbed 97c, or 2.5%, to $40.

Reporting by Larry Ramer.

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