Watches of Switzerland SoHo storefront

LONDON — Watches of Switzerland Group has confirmed it is forging ahead with a widely anticipated initial public offering on the London Stock Exchange, according to a company filing Thursday.

There had long been talk of an IPO by owners Apollo Global Management, the private equity firm, which has owned WoS for six years. WoS is the U.K.’s largest retailer for Rolex, Patek Philippe, Cartier, Omega, Tag Heuer and Breitling. It also owns the premium luxury jewelers Goldsmiths and Mappin & Webb, and in 2017 purchased the watch and jewelry retail chain Mayors in Florida.

Worldwide, WoS boasts around 150 outlets. Under the Watches of Switzerland banner, it has opened two units in Manhattan: a 6,500-square-foot store at Hudson Yards and an 8,000-square-foot space in Soho.

“Watches of Switzerland Group announces that it is considering to undertake an initial public offering and that it intends to publish today a registration document,” the company said Thursday. “The company is considering applying for admission of its ordinary shares to the premium listing segment of the Official List of the Financial Conduct Authority and to trading on the main market of the London Stock Exchange.”

WoS said the offer would comprise new shares to be issued by the company and an offer of existing shares to be sold by certain shareholders.

PICTURE BETH WALSHBusiness: Aurum chief executive Brian Duffy in the showroom at Elland Road.[reporter Tom Pegden]

Brian Duffy  Beth Walsh

The company said it intends to have a free float of at least 25 percent of the issued share capital and expects that up to a further 15 percent of the offer will be made available, pursuant to an over-allotment option. Apollo Global Management would remain a controlling shareholder.

Barclays Bank and Goldman Sachs International have been tapped to act as joint global coordinators, joint bookrunners and joint sponsors. BNP Paribas and Investec Bank will act as joint bookrunners in the event the offer proceeds, the WoS statement said. N.M. Rothschild & Sons Ltd. is acting as financial adviser to WoS.

Brian Duffy, chief executive officer of Watches of Switzerland Group, said Thursday’s announcement signals the next stage in the company’s journey, “leveraging our scale, retail and e-commerce expertise, and strong stakeholder relationships to continue our profitable growth strategy. There are significant growth opportunities ahead of us, both in the U.K. and the U.S., many of which are already being realized. I am very excited for what lies ahead and the opportunity to take our growth strategy to the public markets.”

Duffy told WWD in an interview earlier this year that the public markets would be a good home for Watches of Switzerland.

“I personally think public ownership would be good for a group like this, and I doubt it there is another private owner that’s got the same kind of vision as Apollo,” he said. A trade buyer such as LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton or Kering, he added, would be a tricky owner, given the breadth of brands that Watches of Switzerland sells and the conflicts of interest that could potentially arise.

WoS group revenues were 746 million pounds in the 12 months to Jan. 27, 2019, growing at a CAGR of 18 percent since fiscal 2014. Global adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization was 67.7 million pounds, representing a CAGR of 35.1 percent since fiscal 2014, the company said Thursday.

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