BOISE, Idaho — Albertsons Cos. has rejoined the ranks of publicly owned retailers following an initial public offering (IPO) of 50 million shares of common stock at $16 per share, or $800 million. Excluding a hefty debt load of almost $8.7 billion, the IPO values Albertsons Cos. at about $9.3 billion.
The offering was smaller and priced lower than expected. In a June 18 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company stated it planned to offer 65.8 million shares at an estimated price range of $18 to $20 per share, which would have garnered between $1.18 billion and $1.32 billion.
Investors’ tepid response contrasted sharply with what had been a hot IPO market in June. According to The Wall Street Journal, newly listed companies were rising 20% on average during their first day of trading. Albertsons, by contrast, saw its share price fall 3.4% to $15.45 at the close of its first trading day on June 26.
“An IPO is just the starting line; it’s not the finish line,” chief executive officer Vivek Sankaran told The Journal.
Albertsons Cos.’ return to public status has been long and difficult since it was taken private in 2006. At that time, the original Albertsons Inc. was essentially dissolved through a sale of assets to Supervalu Inc., CVS Health Corp. and Cerberus Capital Management LP, which acquired some 600 of the company’s supermarkets that would become the initial core of the current Albertsons Cos.
After a merger with Safeway Inc. in 2015, the company planned an IPO in hopes of raising as much as $1.7 billion but cancelled the offering as other retail stocks were underperforming at the time.
In 2018, Albertsons Cos. intended to go public via the acquisition of Rite Aid Corp., the nation’s third-largest drug store chain. That deal was scrapped, though, in the face of mounting investor opposition.
Like other grocers, Albertsons Cos. has benefited from increased consumer demand in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to regulatory filings, the company experienced a 47% leap in identical-store sales during March, followed by 21% increases in both April and May.
But Albertsons Cos. had significantly improved its financial performance before the full impact of the pandemic was felt. Net sales for its fiscal 2019 fourth quarter, which ended February 29, rose 10.1%, including a 32% jump in digital sales.
For the full 2019 fiscal year, sales rose 3.2% to $62.46 billion as e-commerce sales soared 39% and identical-store sales gained 3.1%. Net income more than tripled to $466.4 million from $131.1 million in fiscal 2018.
Despite the solid improvement in Albertsons Cos.’ profit and loss statement, some investors may have been put off by its heavily leveraged balance sheet.