NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The hottest fashion runway isn't at the tents in Lincoln Center, in Paris, or even Milan; it's on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Fashion companies are stumbling over each other to go public this year, reaping huge rewards for either the private equity firms or marquee names attached to business.
Apparel Holding Company (AHC) is the latest entry into the IPO market. AHC, also known as Vince, is a stable for several fashion labels including Rebecca Taylor, Sag Harbor and XOXO. It's looking to raise $180 million, as it prices the offering between $17 and $19 a share. While the company has grown rapidly, management has limited experience managing a company of this size and both CEO Jill Granoff and CFO Lisa Klinger have both only been with the company for one year.
Moody's recently rated the near $1 billion in debt of Vince LLC as B2, which is considered speculative and a high credit risk. Moody's is concerned that 61% of its business is concentrated with four customers, and is highly dependent on the company delivering fashion hits. As Heidi Klum says on Project Runway, "One minute you're in, the next you're out."
The initial public offering will help generate cash to pay some of its debt, with some of the proceeds going towards paying back Kellwood Company. Private equity firm Sun Capital acquired Kellwood in 2008. Kellwood (which picked up Vince in 2006) was an apparel company that sold to the likes of Sears Holdings (SHLD) .
AHC filed its offering as an emerging growth company, with the company responsible for divulging only the last two years of its finances. That's probably a good thing, since it's lost money for the last three years. On top of that, it has restructured every year for the last three years in attempts to improve its operational efficiency.
However, none of these issues looks like it will put the stock on the discount table. Francis Gaskins, Director of Research at IPODesktop.com, has a buy rating on the offering, citing the expected net sales increase of 10-11% and the comparable same store sales growth of 16.5%. His buy rating will probably prove to be correct since the market has ignored all the red flags of recent fashion IPOs.
Zulily (ZU) went public last week, with shares zooming 71% on the first day and hasnt come down. It too had several negative issues associated with the company. However, all those negatives were completely ignored by an investing public that is hoping for the next Michael Kors (KORS) . That fashion stock went public in 2011 and is up over 200% since then. Burlington Stores (BURL) - Get Report is up 73% since going public in October. RetailMeNot (SALE) is up 55% since going public in July. So, at first look AHC seems like a no brainer, with recent retail IPOs looking like winners, even if the company is a loser.
There have been a few recent retail IPO's that haven't performed so well. Cosmetic company Coty (COTY) - Get Report is down 11% since its June IPO. Mall-based retailer Francescas (FRAN) - Get Report is off 29% since going public in 2011.
Tumi (TUMI) , is down 10%, having plunged after going public in 2012. Its in the same category as Michael Kors and Coach, having all the markings of a successful offering. Tumi guided earnings down in March, which pulled the stock down. Just when it began to recover, the company guided down again in August. Its only recently begun to crawl back, but its a good example of the fickleness of fashion names.
Vince is expected to be a must own hit on the offering runway, as investors ignore the negatives and instead focus on the shiny new IPO. Hopefully, Vince will not turn into a fashion victim like American Apparel (APP) - Get Report, JC Penneys (JCP) - Get Report or Sears. If you miss buying Vince, dont worry DTLR, a street inspired retailer of footwear, has filed to go public. You can chase that fashion offering next.
--Written by Debra Borchardt in New York.
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