Shares of retailer Chico’s FAS Inc. (NYSE: CHS) were sharply higher Tuesday on chatter about the company potentially going private. The Financial Times said Monday that Chico’s was in talks in recent weeks with “several private equity groups,” but that discussions are in the preliminary stages. Speculation was that the U.S. womenswear chain operator could command a premium of up to 30% to its $2.36 billion market capitalization.
Private equity group Leonard Green took a 1.3% stake in the retailer in April and could be a potential buyer for the entire Chico’s business or a potential partner. Leonard Green also owns stakes in other retailers, including J. Crew and Sports Authority.
At the end of May, Chico’s reported first-quarter profits that were down 22% from a year earlier and short of consensus expectations. Same-store sales fell 2.6%, though total revenue edged 1.6% higher to $681.6 million but also missed estimates. Higher costs and expenses more than offset the benefit of an improved top line. The company also cited lower traffic due to inclement weather, a familiar refrain from the most recent reports from retailers.
Chico’s also said it would scale back its planned store expansion program from an earlier projection of 120 to 130 new stores and outlets during the fiscal year to just 107 stores.
Shares were up more than 10% to $17.07 in early trading on heavy volume, pushing the market cap up to about $2.5 billion. More than 7 million shares had traded hands by late morning, compared with a recent daily average of less than 2.5 million. The 52-week range is $14.90 to $19.84.