Express Prices Low IPO

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. clothing company Express Parent LLC (EXPR.N) priced shares in its initial public offering below the expected range on Wednesday, according to an underwriter.

The Columbus, Ohio-based company sold 16 million shares for $17 each, raising about $272 million. It planned to sell 16 million shares for between $18 and $20 each.

Express is the No. 6 specialty retailer in the United States and is known for its tailored “editor” pants, according to its prospectus. As of Jan. 30, it had 573 stores selling clothing aimed primarily at 20- to 30-year-old women.

Private equity firm Golden Gate Capital bought 75 percent of Express in 2007 when its parent company, Limited Brands Inc (LTD.N), sought to exit the volatile apparel industry. Golden Gate planned to sell a portion of its shares in the offering, but expected to retain a greater than 50 percent stake in the company, according to the most recent prospectus.

Express net sales fell 0.9 percent to $1.72 billion in the year ended Jan. 30. The company swung to a $75.31 million profit from a $29.04 million loss. Comparable store sales — outlets open at least a year — slipped 6 percent compared with a 3 percent dip a year earlier.

Express said it would use proceeds from the offering to pay off loans, interest and fees and expenses associated with the IPO.

Underwriters were led by Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Goldman, Sachs & Co. The shares are expected to begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday under the symbol “EXPR.” (Reporting by Clare Baldwin; editing by Andre Grenon)