May 10, 2010
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Jones Apparel to buy Stuart Weitzman; delays offering

May 10, 2010

NEW YORK, May 6 (Reuters) - Jones Apparel Group Inc (JNY.N) said it will buy designer shoe company Stuart Weitzman Holdings for an initial cash payment of $180 million, in a bid to expand its reach into luxury goods.

Grane, from Jones Apparel Group Inc - www.jonesapparel.com

In a separate statement on Thursday 6 May, Jones also said it has delayed a public offering of $250 million of senior notes due 2018, citing unfavorable market conditions.

The company's shares closed down 4 percent at $20.03 on Thursday 6 May amid a sell-off in the wider U.S. stock market, as the escalating debt crisis in Europe stoked fears a new credit crunch was in the making.

Jones will use cash on hand or alternative financing to buy a 55 percent stake in privately owned Stuart Weitzman Holdings from shareholders including private equity firm Irving Place Capital.

Shoe designer Stuart Weitzman, who took over the business from his father, will be the principal owner of the remaining 45 percent stake, which Jones plans to buy at the end of 2012.

Jones' portfolio already includes shoe brands like Nine West, Easy Spirit and Enzo Angiolini and designer clothing names like Robert Rodriguez and Rachel Roy.

Lazard Capital analyst Todd Slater said Jones will pay 0.9 times trailing revenue, which he said was a good price given Stuart Weitzman's cachet and strong cash flow, as well as very healthy margins that are well above those in Jones' current wholesale footwear portfolio.

Slater also said that Jones should benefit from favorable relationships the brand has with retailers such as Nordstrom Inc (JWN.N), which has a big Stuart Weitzman business and just began carrying Nine West.

Standard & Poor's raised its rating on Jones Apparel to positive from negative following the news. The ratings agency cited progress Jones has made in improving margins and credit protection measures despite a very weak retail environment.

Goldman Sachs advised Jones on the transaction, while adviser to Stuart Weitzman LLC was Financo Inc.

The acquisition, which will add to Jones earnings, is expected to close within 30 business days. (Reporting by Nivedita Bhattacharjee, Martinne Geller and Dhanya Skariachan; Editing by Unnikrishnan Nair and Steve Orlofsky)

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