By  on February 16, 2010

Express Parent LLC, the owner of Express specialty apparel stores, said in a regulatory filing Tuesday that it plans to raise as much as $200 million in an initial public offering.

Express became a stand-alone business in 2007 when private equity firm Golden Gate Private Equity Inc. paid $602 million to acquire a 75 percent stake in the chain from Limited Brands Inc.

The Securities and Exchange Commission filing said proceeds from the IPO would be used to prepay debt due in 2015, but did not provide details on an IPO date or how many shares would be offered. The total debt is $416.9 million.

Teen chain Rue21 and discounter Dollar General both had IPO’s in November. VS Holdings Inc., which operates Vitamin Shoppe stores, went public in October.

Express, which has been in business more than 30 years, is the sixth largest specialty retail apparel chain in the U.S, according to the filing. The company targets men and women between the ages of 20 and 30 and operated 573 stores with average square footage of 8,700 as of Jan. 30. The filing said the retailer plans to open on average 30 new stores in the U.S. and Canada every year for the next five years.

Women’s comprised 68 percent of net sales, and men’s represented 32 percent in fiscal 2008, according to the filing. The chain posted a net loss of $29 million on net sales of $1.7 billion in the 2008 fiscal year.

Since Golden Gate took its stake, Express has converted stores to a dual-gender format, redesigned its go-to-market strategy and launched an e-commerce platform.

Express hired Michael Weiss as president and chief executive officer in July 2007. It launched in 1980 in Chicago as a division of Limited Brands, and in 1987 started a men’s apparel line, rebranded under the name Structure in 1989.

Before the IPO, Express intends to reorganize the business as a Delaware corporation under the name Express Inc., and plans to trade under the symbol “EXPR,” the filing said.

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