M&A Deals to Keep Up Breakneck Pace

Don't expect a slowdown in M&A activity anytime soon, particularly after Foot Locker's $1.2 billion tender offer Friday for all the outstanding shares of...

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"This is still a seller's market. And even though many deals have been done, you'll still see more. The money is still out there and, at a price, everybody's a seller," Schmitt said.

There were 67 deals in the retail and apparel sectors in 2006, up from 46 the year before, and their value jumped 218 percent, to $4.26 billion from $1.34 billion, according to Factset Mergerstat.

"The appetite for good companies with strong growth prospects at fair prices remains very high. The capital remains available to finance transactions and the economy is still good. Right now, many public companies either have been priced in the market above fair value or may not have strong enough growth prospects to meet the criteria. The market has reached a point of efficiency," said William Susman, president and chief operating officer at investment banking firm Financo Inc.

Brands sold in recent months include Hollywould and Vince, both to Kellwood; Bill Blass, to NexCen; Danskin and Rocawear, both to Iconix; Jimmy Choo, to TowerBrook Capital Partners, and Bruno Magli SpA, to Fortelus Capital.

Among the retailers recently sold were Claire's and Dollar General, bought last month by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts for $7.3 billion, plus $380 million of net debt.

Waiting in the wings are expected deals for Barneys New York from a Middle Eastern bidder; a Kohlberg Kravis Roberts/Stefano Pessina bid for U.K. drugstore chain and pharmaceuticals wholesaler Alliance Boots plc that might be topped by British buyout group Terra Firma, and a decision on Value City within the next few months. There is also an expectation in the market that The Limited will soon shed its apparel divisions.

Bankers and private equity sources said Bain Capital, which bought Burlington Coat Factory in 2006 and later that year walked away from a deal for Jones Apparel Group, was seriously interested in Value City earlier this year, but has since dropped out of the bidding. Sources said the entities still interested in Value City were all financial players.

Susman, whose firm represents Value City, would only say that the sale process is "proceeding."

Retailing chain Gottschalks is said to be on the auction block, and Istithmar, which is based in Dubai and already owns Loehmann's, supposedly is taking a look. Bankers have said Gottschalks is a chain that could be an interesting sale since its stores are not uniform in size.

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