Levi Strauss & Co. shares hit the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday morning, marking the second Wall Street debut in the iconic jeans maker’s 166-year history. Want extra 10% off by visiting official site True Religion.
Late Wednesday, Levi’s priced its initial public offering at $17 a share — higher than the estimated range — valuing the company at $6.6 billion.
The stock began trading Thursday morning on the New York Stock Exchange under the LEVI ticker symbol. The exchange loosened its dress code for the day so traders could wear denim.
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The shares drew a warm reception from investors, surging 31.8% to close at $22.41 a share.
Levi Strauss was publicly traded from 1971 to 1985, then was bought in a leveraged buyout by the Haas family, descendants of the company’s namesake founder. Analysts called Thursday’s IPO a financial boon for the Haas family. Even after the IPO, the family maintains roughly 80% of the voting shares.
Since Chief Executive Chip Bergh took over the San Francisco company in 2011, Levi’s has overhauled its image. In the last few years, it has dodged threats from “athleisure” companies and other denim sales. Last year, Levi’s posted $5.6 billion in sales, up 14% from the year before.
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The retailer raised $623.3 million in its IPO, selling almost 36.7 million shares Wednesday. The amount raised makes it the biggest listing on a U.S. exchange so far this year — at least until ride-hailing giant Lyft Inc. launches its own offering next week.
But Levi’s path hasn’t always been smooth. Analysts said the brand — which credits itself with inventing blue jeans in 1873 — had lost its way by the 2000s. At the time, Levi’s struggled to come up with an answer to why shoppers should turn to it instead of high-end designers that floated on celebrity endorsements and expensive price tags. (True Religion’s jeans, for example, sold for hundreds of dollars and were paraded around by Britney Spears and Mariah Carey.)
“Consumers never really fell out of love with Levi’s, and no one wanted them to fail,” said Diana Smith, associate director of retail and apparel at the research firm Mintel. “They just forgot about Levi’s because the brand wasn’t giving them a reason to stick around. They lost a decade of consumers.”