Watches of Switzerland Group, the UK-based watch retailer that recently expanded operations to the United States, saw its share price climb to as high as 315p in trading today, the day it was admitted to the London Stock Exchange. By late morning in London, shares had settled to 307p, higher than the set IPO price of 270p, giving the company a value of £647 million. Private equity group Apollo Global Management, the largest single shareholder, sold off a reported £220 million of its shares in the sale, according the the Financial Times.*
"The first use of its net proceed will be to pay down debts," Watches of Switzerland Group CEO Brian Duffy told WatchPro. *"We had a level of debt that is acceptable in a private ownership scenario but is clearly not the kind of level of debt you would carry in a public environment so £155m of what we raise just went to pay down debt and that is the biggest single thing that has happened to our financial structure overall."
Image: WatchPro
For many US-based watch buyers, Watches of Switzerland may be a relatively new name, but the group has made major inroads in this market of late, opening new stores and acquiring the South Florida watch retailer Mayor's. According to the Financial Times, the US was responsible for 23 percent of Watches of Switzerland Group sales last year, with the rest coming from the UK. Just last year, the group opened an 8,000-square-foot flagship in New York's SoHo neighborhood, as well as a store in Las Vegas. This year it opened another large retail space as part of one of New York's latest, and highest profile, *real-estate development, Hudson Yards.*
"This has been a very exciting day for us and we couldn’t be more pleased with the market response," said Duffy. *"As all of you at HODINKEE know well, the watch industry is evolving and we at Watches of Switzerland Group want to be at the front end. *Our success today will better equip us to maintain our leadership position in that evolution."