Neiman Marcus Files for IPO—Private Equity Owners Seek Exit

Pedestrians walk past a Neiman Marcus store on the Magnificent Mile in Chicago.
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Pedestrians walk past a Neiman Marcus store on the Magnificent Mile in Chicago.

Neiman Marcus filed registration papers on Monday for an initial public offering as its private equity owners eye an exit for their long-held investment in the luxury department store operator.

The Dallas-based retailer has been in the hands of private equity since 2005, when TPG Capital and Warburg Pincus led a group that bought it for $5.1 billion.

The IPO registration may signal little more than Neiman Marcus' desire to keep its options open. Private equity-owned companies routinely try to sell themselves to other companies or funds while they are also preparing for an IPO in a practice referred to by investment bankers as "dual-track."

Last month for example, Warburg agreed to sell eye care company Bausch & Lomb Holdings to Valeant Pharmaceuticals International for $8.7 billion after it had registered it for an IPO.

Funding from private equity typically have a lifespan of 10 years. Owned by private equity for eight years already, Neiman Marcus is considered a mature investment by industry standards.

Neiman, which operates 41 namesake departments stores, Bergdorf Goodman as well as the lower-price outlet chains Last Call and CUSP, would not receive any proceeds from the IPO, according to the prospectus filed with U.S. regulators. All shares in an IPO would be sold by existing shareholders.

(Read More: Neiman Marcus on Sale as Firms Look to Exit)

The initial prospectus did not set out a timeline for the IPO, how many shares will be sold and by whom. It also didn't say on which exchange Neiman shares would be traded. The company indicated it was asking to raise up to $100 million, but that amount is the standard used in many IPO filings as a placeholder to calculate a company's registration fees.

During the 2008-2009 financial crisis, luxury sales plummeted in the United States. Neiman revenues had not yet recovered to pre-recession levels at the end of its most recent, complete fiscal year but are poised to for the fiscal year ending in late July.

Neiman, which competes most directly with Saks, Nordstrom and Macy's upscale Bloomingdale's chain, reported that revenues in the nine months ended April 27 rose 5.7 percent to $3.53 billion while comparable sales were up 4.8 percent.

Saks reported comparable sales rose 4.4 percent in fiscal 2012, while for Nordstrom they were up 7.3 percent.

Neiman was the first high-end U.S. retailer to offer e-commerce and gets about 21.7 percent of sales online, better than Saks and Nordstrom.

In its prospectus, Neiman said e-commerce would continue to be a major source of growth, including more sales to overseas shoppers. It also plans to expand its Last Call and CUSP chains of small format outlet stores.

Private equity firms have been busy this year trying to cash out on portfolio companies. Other recent large deals involving private equity-backed companies include SeaWorld Entertainment and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.

—By Reuters.