Levi Strauss & Co. began as a dry goods business in San Francisco in 1853, invented blue jeans 20 years after that, and now, nearly 150 years later, has filed for its second initial public offering.
Levi Strauss has applied to trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “LEVI,”
and has not yet set a price range or goal for how much it aims to raise, using the placeholder sum of $100 million in its prospectus.
There are 12 underwriters on the deal led by Goldman Sachs & Co.
The company plans to use the proceeds for “general corporate purposes” including operating expenses, though it could also use some of the money for acquisitions and strategic investments.
Levi’s first when public in 1971, but was again taken private in 1985. Though it may be best known for jeans, the company also sells dress pants, shoes, and accessories. It also owns the Dockers brand, which the company says helped to drive the 1990s trend towards “Casual Fridays,” and the Signature by Levi Strauss & Co. and Denizen brands, which are priced affordably.
The company had $5.6 billion in revenue in fiscal 2018 across three reporting geographies: the Americas, which contributed 55% of sales; Europe with 29%; and Asia, which includes the Mideast and Africa, contributed 16%.
Net revenue has grown from $4.8 billion in fiscal 2011, representing a compound annual growth rate of 2.3%. However, net income has grown from $135 million in fiscal 2011 to $285 million in fiscal 2018, for a CAGR of 11.3%.
Wholesale channels accounted for 65% of net revenues in fiscal 2018, but no single customer represented 10% or more of the total. It is the top jeanswear brand in the world by total retail sales, according to its prospectus.
Levi’s would be going public in a retail environment reeling from a 1.2% decline in December retail sales, which will have an impact on gross domestic product; uncertainty about U.S.-China tariffs; changing consumer shopping habits, including increasing e-commerce; and ongoing bankruptcies and store closures. Payless ShoeSource, for example, may file for bankruptcy and shut down all of its 2,300 stores, according to reports.
But, according to Levi’s, the company has its iconic status and “effortless cool” working in its favor. While it talks up brand innovation, the prospectus shines a light on the signature features of its Levi’s jeans, such as the “Red Tab Device,” the bit of red fabric stitched onto the right back pocket.
“This approach has enabled the Levi’s brand to evolve with the times and continually reach a new, younger audience, while our rich heritage continues to drive relevance and appeal across demographics,” the company wrote.
The company says it has stepped up its marketing efforts over the last two years to become a fixture at sporting events and music festivals, like Coachella, where Beyoncé wore a pair of Levi’s cutoff shorts for her headline performance. The company also launched a capsule collection in fall 2018 with another big name in music, Justin Timberlake. A second collaboration with Nike Inc.’s
Air Jordan brand was released in summer 2018.
Still, the company has had its challenges, including past accounting errors that led it in 2007 to dump KPMG as its auditor in favor of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC. Its pension plan was underfunded by $178 million at end-2018.
Here are five things you need to know about Levi’s before its IPO:
Dual-class share structure
The company is planning to adopt a dual-class share structure. Each Class A share will be entitled to one vote, while each Class B share will have 10 votes.
Class B stock will primarily be held by descendants of the company’s founder, Levi Strauss, and that’s important for any investor planning to buy the stock.
“Descendants of the family of Levi Strauss have the ability to control the outcome of matters submitted for stockholder approval, which will limit your ability to influence corporate matters,” the prospectus said.
Levi wants to move beyond men’s bottoms
Levi’s says men’s bottoms “has been and will continue to be a key driver of our operating results,” with net revenues for the category growing 3% between fiscal 2017 and fiscal 2018. However the company is focused on stepping beyond this area, with tops and the women’s business becoming a greater focus in the near-term.
The company would also like to expand the Signature by Levi Strauss & Co. and Denizen brands, which would target value customers. Levi’s has existing relationships with Target Corp.
and Walmart Inc.
It depends heavily on its wholesale partners
“Sales to our top ten wholesale customers accounted for 27%, 28% and 30% of our total net revenues in fiscal years 2018, 2017 and 2016, respectively,” the company said. But it doesn’t have long-term contracts with its major wholesale customers.
“As a result, purchases generally occur on an order-by-order basis, and the relationship, as well as particular orders, can generally be terminated by either party at any time,” the prospectus said. “If any major wholesale customer decreases or ceases its purchases from us, cancels its orders, reduces the floor space, assortments, fixtures or advertising for our products or changes its manner of doing business with us for any reason, such actions could adversely affect our business and financial condition.”
It is putting a new tech system in place, but had trouble last time
The company is implementing a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, and it identifies the possible inability to fill customer orders among the risks to this upgrade.
“Our system implementations may not result in productivity improvements at a level that outweighs the costs of implementation, or at all,” the company said. “In addition, the difficulties with implementing new or upgraded technology systems may cause disruptions in our business operations and have an adverse effect on our business and operations, if not anticipated and appropriately mitigated.”
According to a 2008 ZDNet report, Levi’s experienced a 98% decline in quarterly net income due to an earlier ERP implementation problem.
It views climate change as a real threat
In countries around the world where Levi’s does business, governments are passing regulations to deal with the impact of climate change. These regulations, which could result in new required compliance by Levi’s or its business partners, could hurt the business.
“As a result, we may experience increases in energy, production, transportation and raw material costs, capital expenditures or insurance premiums and deductibles,” the company said. “Inconsistency of legislation and regulations among jurisdictions may also affect the costs of compliance with such laws and regulations.”