Nordstrom Inc. (JWN) is inching closer to going private, and thus, closer to returning to robust business.
CNBC first reported on Tuesday, Sept. 12, that Nordstrom's family members, which collectively own a 31.2% stake in the company, are nearing a deal with private-equity firm Leonard Green & Partners LP to help fund a buyout. Leonard Green will give the Nordstrom family members $1 billion in equity to fund the deal to take it private, which is not yet finalized and likely will not be for several more weeks, according to CNBC.
In June, the Nordstrom family said it was exploring taking the company private. In a new note, Wolfe Research estimates Nordstrom could be worth $54 a share in a deal, or nearly $9 billion.
Here's why a privately held Nordstrom makes sense.
Preserve the family legacy.
What was founded as a single shoe store in 1901, in part, by John W. Nordstrom is today a retailer of 354 stores, selling apparel, shoes and accessories across its full-line and off-price Rack banners, in the U.S. and Canada. Department stores, thriving when the company first went public in 1971 on the Nasdaq under the ticker NOBE (it moved to the NYSE in 1999 under its current ticker JWN, the initials of its founder), are now a thorn in the mall's side. John Nordstrom's grandsons, Bruce, James, John, Jack (who married into the family) and friend Bob Bender, who took control of the company in 1968, were behind the move to take Nordstrom public. The company, and in turn the family, was then thrust into the public's eye, but then, the business was booming, reaching more than $100 million in sales two years after hitting the public markets. Fast forward to 2017 and department stores, including Nordstrom, are suffering from a plummet in sales and traffic. While Nordstrom is doing better than its peers, including Macy's Inc. (M) and J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (JCP) , as the bricks-and-mortar space worsens, the retailer likely won't want every quarterly decline broadcast to the public, because it taints the family name.
Get out before it's too late.
Nordstrom is outperforming peers Macy's and J.C. Penney by far. In the second quarter, Nordstrom reported same-store sales rose 1.7% and net sales climbed 3.5%. While 1.7% is surely not a huge spike, any growth in the sector is a feat. However, Nordstrom is not immune to the pressures on the industry. Due to more store closures and dwindling traffic and bricks-and-mortar sales, Fitch Ratings estimated on Tuesday that 400 of the 1,200 malls in the U.S. could close by 2020. As the industry worsens, an individual retailer's ability to draw investment from private equity is getting harder. Nordstrom should hop on a PE deal, with Leonard Green or some other firm, while its business is intact and attractive.
Let Nordstrom focus on Nordstrom.
Nordstrom is seen as one of the few department stores that can survive the predicted bricks-and-mortar retail apocalypse. RBC Capital Markets analyst Brian Tunick previously told TheStreet that the view on Wall Street is that the dying Sears Holdings Corp. (SHLD) will file for bankruptcy first, followed by J.C. Penney. Tunick added that Nordstrom is the best-positioned in the department-store group, ahead of Macy's and Kohl's Corp. (KSS) , to adapt and thrive. Without the noise of being in the public's eye, Nordstrom can focus on improving. It already has put some encouraging initiatives in place, such as a strong digital strategy that led its online sales to spike 20% in its recent second quarter. Plus, on Tuesday, Nordstrom announced it would launch the first of its new concept stores, Nordstrom Local, on Oct. 3 in California, where customers will have access to a wine-and-beer bar and personal stylists.