MEXICO CITY — Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s Walmex unit has put Suburbia on sale following months of speculation it was seeking to sell the struggling apparel chain to focus on its more profitable supermarket franchise.
With 117 stores, Suburbia could fetch 20 billion to 30 billion pesos, or $1.1 billion to $1.6 billion at current exchange, according to analysts. It has faced pressure from more nimble rivals such as Coppel or Liverpool, the latter of which has expressed an interest in purchasing the mass-market retailer.
Luis Willard, analyst at Grupo Bursatil Mexicano, estimated the discount apparel firm could lure $1.4 billion, or 11.5 times 2016 enterprise value. “They have a similar cost structure to department stores in Mexico and Latin America and same-store sales rose 5 to 6 percent in 2015,” following lower single-digit increases in 2014, Willard said.
Walmex, Wal-Mart Stores’ Mexico and Central American unit, said Suburbia accounts for roughly 3.5 percent of Walmex’s sales which leapt 11 percent to $27 billion last year. Based on that multiple, last year’s revenues could have totaled $945 million.
Many analysts tipped Liverpool as the most likely buyer, noting the Mexican chain could integrate Suburbia to boost its struggling Fabricas de Francia unit’s fortunes. Willard said Liverpool may not want to clinch Suburbia until it flips around Fabricas de Francia in 12 to 18 months.
“Suburbia would make sense once it restructures Fabricas de Francia, which Liverpool is relaunching and which remains its main worry,” Willard said.
Walmex — which retained Morgan Stanley to help find a suitor — could also get a good price from a large supermarket, home improvement or electronics retailer, Willard said, adding that its 2,500-square-meter average store size makes the chain suitable to selling much more than apparel.
Areli Villeda, analyst at Banco Multiva, said other department-store chain Coppel and Sears could lock horns with Liverpool to purchase Suburbia. She said the deal could distract Liverpool from a potential tie-up with Chile’s Ripley, which has operations in “riskier markets like Chile, Colombia and Argentina [that] have been badly affected by the rising dollar.”
“Suburbia would strengthen Liverpool’s domestic operations,” Villeda said, adding that the 109-strong pink-logo chain also has healthier finances than Sears, which belongs to billionaire Carlos Slim’s Grupo Sanborns, but is being restructured.
A third analyst in New York said the divestment would relieve Walmex after years of trying to sell Suburbia to focus on higher-margin foodstuffs.
“They want to sell noncore or struggling assets and Suburbia is one that has been struggling for the past few years,” said the analyst requesting anonymity. “Competition [in Mexican retail] has toughened and they have not been able to match the credit products offered by others” like Coppel or Liverpool.
Liverpool did not return phone calls. Enrique Grinal, investor relations director, recently told WWD that the firm may look at Suburbia if it’s officially put on sale.