NEW YORK — Those high-earning investment bankers can forget the beach: This summer is likely to be a busy time on the M&A front.
As private equity and real estate players continue to eye the retail and apparel sectors, several major deals are entering their concluding phases, including a disposal of Lord & Taylor, the sale of Jones Apparel Group and a possible sale of Eddie Bauer. Some or all of these deals could be completed by the steamy month of August.
Among the latest developments:
- Federated Department Stores Inc. received multiple offers for its Lord & Taylor business last week, and has narrowed the field to 10 bids. The process now moves into a second round.
- Federated is also working on a sale of David’s Bridal, financial sources said, and the retailer has sent out 40 books to potential bidders.
- The bidding for Jones Apparel Group has entered a second round, and investment banking sources say the bid price is looking like $32 per share. This is below what the company and its bankers are said to have wanted, which was between $35 and $38 per share.
- Sources say a sale of Foot Locker Inc. — which could possibly be a leveraged buyout — might not occur until much later this year.
- Eddie Bauer Holdings Inc. confirmed a WWD story that it hired Goldman Sachs as its financial adviser to explore a sale.
For Lord & Taylor, the sale process seems to be on a fast track. As the bidding enters a second round, financial and real estate sources say bidders include Vornado Realty Trust, Schottenstein Stores Corp., Cerberus Capital Management and Gordon Brothers. Sources also said there’s a joint bid from Texas Pacific Group and Warburg Pincus, which is the team that bought Neiman Marcus Group last year.
It could not be determined what the price was of the 10 bids. Sources previously said Federated had sent out 40 memorandums, or fact sheets, to prospective bidders. The retailer was looking to sell the business for around $1.2 billion. The 10-page memo listed the Fifth Avenue flagship at 38th Street as having a valuation of $350 million. Due to the bidding entering a second round, one Wall Street analyst said a sale could close before the end of August.
While bids from consortia were accepted for Lord &Taylor, Federated is believed to be rejecting consortium bids for its Bridal Group of businesses. That sale is also expected to proceed quickly over the next few months, financial sources said. There is no timing on when initial bids are due.
The Bridal Group is made up of over 240 David’s Bridal stores, as well as 454 After Hours formalwear units, and 11 Priscilla of Boston stores. Last September, Federated said it had hired Credit Suisse First Boston and Bank of America Securities to divest the business.
Regarding Jones Apparel Group, the bid process is moving along. Despite chief executive Peter Boneparth declining to comment about the sale process at the annual meeting last week at the J.P. Morgan Chase Conference Center, here, bankers and Wall Street analysts said a sale could be announced before summer’s end. The company completed a series of meetings with selected first-round bidders two weeks ago and second-round bids were due Friday.
Financial sources were expecting three or four private equity firms to place second-round bids. Sources had said Bain Capital, Bear Stearns Merchant Banking, The Blackstone Group and Texas Pacific Group were among those placing second-round bids.
For Foot Locker, which was once believed to have been eyeing an acquisition or two of its own, the one-page fact sheet circulating last week might result in a sale much later than previously thought. As reported, Thomas H. Lee Partners and Apollo Management are believed to be circling the retailer.
Financial sources said a sale of the specialty retailer would take longer due to the size of its store base and the number of brands involved, meaning any due diligence would take some time. The company, which has annual sales of $5.7 billion, operates over 3,900 stores under several flags including: Foot Locker, Kids Foot Locker, Lady Foot Locker, Champs Sports, Footaction USA and Foot Locker International.
For Eddie Bauer, financial and strategic players are said to be eyeing the company, which announced last Thursday that it was exploring strategic opportunities. As reported, VF Corp. and Perry Ellis International are said to be interested parties.
Before Eddie Bauer made the announcement, financial sources presumed VF and Perry Ellis would seek some other acquisition since neither firm is the type to engage in a hostile offer. Eddie Bauer’s appointment of Goldman Sachs opens the door for friendly discussions, sources said, adding that nothing is certain until after Eddie Bauer reports first-quarter earnings results, which are expected this week.
Another potential acquirer for Redmond, Wash.-based Bauer is the team of Texas Pacific Group and Apax Partners. Apax recently closed on its acquisition of Tommy Hilfiger Corp., but this is believed to be the first time TPG and Apax have linked up in a retail bid. Financial sources believe the outdoor lifestyle retailer is valued at $750 million. TPG could be eyeing Bauer as a complementary business to its J. Crew operation.
Separately, on Friday, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services placed its ratings of Eddie Bauer Holdings on “CreditWatch with developing implications,” the ratings firm said in a statement. Standard & Poor’s said it “will monitor developments associated with this process to assess the implications for the ratings.”