NEW YORK — Coty Inc. has capped off its long-anticipated quest to go public.After the close of the market Wednesday, Coty priced its stock at $17.50, at the midpoint of its forecast range of $16.50 to $18.50, and will officially throw open its boardroom doors to Wall Street when trading of the shares begins today on the New York Stock Exchange. The company raised $1.15 billion by offering 57.1 million shares of Class A common stock and 8.6 million shares to the offering’s underwriters, led by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley.The share price values Coty at roughly $7 billion.Coty will not receive any proceeds from the offering; all the money will go to selling shareholders, namely Joh. A. Benckiser GmbH, or JAB, Berkshire Partners and Rhone Capital. Even after the initial public offering, these three shareholders will continue to control 97.7 percent of the company’s voting rights and approximately 81.1 percent of the total equity ownership.Coty shares will trade under the symbol “COTY.”Having finally gotten the IPO out of the way, Coty must now prove it can accelerate its business performance in the face of challenged markets, such as Southern Europe, and decrease its reliance on fragrances, which continue to account for more than half of its business. Over the last decade, the 109-year-old company has grown by launching a steady stream of celebrity and designer fragrance brands and by making a string of acquisitions, including Sally Hansen, OPI and Philosophy, and TJoy and Dr. Scheller Cosmetics AG abroad. The deals were aimed at reducing Coty’s dependence on fragrances by moving it deeper into high-margin, fast-growing categories, such as skin care and color cosmetics. The changes were seen by many as preparations for an IPO. By category, in fiscal 2012, fragrances accounted for 53 percent of sales, followed by color cosmetics at 31 percent and skin and body care at 16 percent.Coty first eyed an IPO about five years ago, but those plans were derailed by the recession, said industry sources. Beginning in early 2011, Coty again looked at an IPO, but then spotted an alternative route to the public markets: the potential takeover of the much larger Avon Products Inc. Avon was struggling and its then-embattled chief executive officer Andrea Jung was forced to step down. Coty tried to buy the direct-selling company, but was rebuffed by Avon’s board and its newly installed ceo Sheri McCoy.Coty withdrew its $10.7 billion takeover bid for Avon in May 2012, and filed its initial intention to go public the following month. But the surprises continued. In July, Coty’s ceo Bernd Beetz, the architect of the strategy that built the company over the prior decade, stepped down and was succeeded by Coty Prestige president Michele Scannavini. The leadership change further delayed the IPO, which sources said had been slated for last fall.The company’s latest results didn’t help either. Linda Bolton Weiser, an analyst at B. Riley & Co., outlined her concerns about a “deterioration in performance in fiscal 2013” in a research note earlier this week, noting that year-to-date organic sales were up 2 percent, compared to 8 percent in fiscal 2012 and 7 percent the prior year. She also pointed out that, in addition to being weighted toward the fragrance category, Coty relies heavily on the mass market — which accounts for 50 percent of the company’s revenue and is currently growing more slowly than prestige channel — and Europe. She stated, “With 48 percent of sales in Europe, Middle East and Africa, Coty has the highest exposure to macro-challenged Europe than any other company we follow, and weakness in Europe was cited by Coty as one of the reasons for the organic sales growth deceleration in fiscal 2013 year to date.”The IPO marks Coty’s return to life as a public company. Shares previously traded on the NYSE from the late Thirties through the 1963, when the company was acquired by Pfizer Inc. It became part of Benckiser in 1992.
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