Wires

Warner Music, Cole Haan delay IPOs amid coronavirus jitters -sources

Joshua Franklin

NEW YORK, March 2 (Reuters) - Warner Music Group Corp and Cole Haan Inc have abandoned plans to kick off their initial public offerings (IPOs) early this week, making them the most high-profile financial casualties of the coronavirus outbreak among U.S. companies pursuing stock market debuts, according to people familiar with the matter.

The companies made the decision after the S&P 500 Index lost close to 12% of its value last week, the fastest such correction on record. Such volatility makes it difficult for IPO underwriters to find steady demand for a company's shares.

Warner Music, the world's third-largest music recording label, and shoemaker Cole Haan had hoped to communicate to the market their targeted price ranges for their shares and begin formal meetings with potential IPO investors on Monday, the sources said. The companies have now put these plans on ice until the market improves, the sources added.

The sources requested anonymity because the delays have not been announced. Warner Music and Cole Haan declined to comment.

Companies were rushing to complete their IPOs this year to beat the political uncertainty that traditionally dampens stock market debuts close to the U.S. Presidential election in November. The coronavirus outbreak has now derailed such plans for many IPO hopefuls.

Canadian waste management company GFL Environmental Holdings Inc is scheduled to raise around $1.5 billion in an IPO this week. GFL did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether the market rout has affected plans to proceed with it.

In January, buyout firm Carlyle Group Inc delayed the U.S. IPO of its German specialty chemicals group Atotech, due to the company's exposure to China, Reuters reported at the time.

To be sure, it is possible for a company to complete an IPO in this environment with very strong investor backing. Gene therapy specialist Passage Bio Inc defied the market rout last week to price its IPO at the top end of a targeted range, and saw its shares rally after its debut.

When it presses ahead, Warner Music is set to be one of the year's larger IPOs, raising in excess of $1 billion, sources said. The company is not in an urgent need to go public with the entirety of proceeds from the IPO going to current investors and not to the company.

Private equity firm Apax Partners acquired Cole Haan from Nike in 2012 for $570 million. The company posted $33.1 million in net income for 2019, up from $23.1 a year earlier.

Some $65 billion in stock was sold through U.S. IPOs in 2019, up modestly from 2018, thanks to high-profile listings by companies such as Uber Technologies Inc and Lyft Inc , according to FactSet. (Reporting by Joshua Franklin in New York; Editing by Christopher Cushing)