Shares in Britain’s biggest watch retailer Watches of Switzerland Group Ltd rose by as much as 15% on their debut on the London Stock Exchange on Thursday. Shares climbed to as high as 315 pence per share, from an initial price of 270 pence. On its second day of trading, May 31, shares stabilized a bit, closing the day at 308 pence.
The listing of 34% of the company was set to raise around 220 million pounds ($278 million), valuing the retailer at 647 million pounds. The 270 pence initial price was already at the top end of the range initially targeted for the deal, suggesting strong demand for the retailer which accounted for half of all Rolex watches sold in the UK in 2018, in addition to being the UK’s largest retailed of Patek Phillipe, Cartier, Omega, TAG Heuer, and Breitling.
We’ve covered Watches of Switzerland as the company has solidified its move into the U.S. market with headline-grabbing showrooms in Soho, the new Hudson Yards in New York, and at the Wynn in Las Vegas. Established in 2007, Watches of Switzerland Group has over 130 showrooms and 5 online transactional websites, comprising of Watches of Switzerland, Goldsmiths, Mappin & Webb, Watchshop and The Watch Hut. It also manages 13 dedicated mono-brand boutiques in partnership with Rolex, TAG Heuer, Omega and Breitling.
In an interview with WatchPro, Watches of Switzerland CEO provided some reaction to the successful IPO, saying that around £155m would be used to help with debts, something he thinks is necessary in the new public space.
He further explained: “I think it has actually turned out to be a bit more than that (£220m), I think Apollo said from the beginning that they would be prepared to go at something around 10% of their shares so it has gone at a little bit more than that. Apollo selling 15% of their stake approximately results in us having a 40% free float so the public out there owns 40% of the business now.”
Primarily known for its bricks-and-mortar boutiques, Watches of Switzerland has been investing heavily in its online operations to become a multi-channel distributor. Its online strategy includes custom-built websites with a focus on rich content and high quality images and videos, and online assistance including a concierge service for those buying a watch costing £5,000 or more.
In the year to January 27, 2019 the group generated sales of £746m, while its earnings before interest, tax and asset write-downs came in at £67.7m. That was a 9.2% growth in revenue compared to the year prior, on a like-for-like basis. 12.4% of its revenues, excluding Rolex and Patek Philippe brands, came from online sales. That revenue figure was good enough for a 35% share of the UK luxury watch market.
According to the Financial Times, the share pricing brings shares to 14 times the price/earnings ratio on net income for April 2020 forecast at £47m.