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Irving-based Michaels begins trading after IPO

NEW YORK (AP) — Michaels has crafted its way back to the stock market, raising $472 million in an initial public offering.

It priced 27.8 million shares at $17 each, at the low end of its predicted range. That suggests tepid demand for its stock, which is set to start trading Friday. It could raise up to $543 million if underwriters use their option to buy additional shares.

Irving, Texas-based Michaels Cos., which operates under its name and Aaron Brothers, is the largest arts and crafts chain in North America by store count.

Its offering, coming as the IPO market heats up, tests investors' enthusiasm for the highly fragmented $30 billion arts and crafts industry. Michaels has faced tough competition from discounters — Wal-Mart Stores Inc., for example, recently brought back its fabric offerings — and online king Amazon.com.

"There's just no wow," said Brian S. Sozzi, CEO of Belus Capital Advisors. "With an IPO in retail, you want a growth concept. Michaels is still a destination for fabric and household crafts. But online competition has grown substantially."

Michaels has been late to the online party, launching its e-commerce business only earlier this year.

The company has said it sees growth opportunities. In regulatory filings, it said that North America could potentially grow to 1,500 Michaels stores. It currently operates 1,263 Michaels stores and 118 Aaron Brothers stores.

It plans to open 40 to 45 new Michaels stores in North America this fiscal year, including 10 to 15 relocations, and sell some products only online. It's also aiming to increase its offerings of more exclusive products, largely through private brands.

For its latest fiscal year, which ended on Feb. 1, sales rose nearly 4 percent to $4.6 billion. Net income rose to $243 million from $200 million.

Private equity firms Bain Capital LLC and Blackstone Group LP bought the company in a $6 billion leveraged buyout eight years ago.

The arts and crafts chain plans to use the IPO's proceeds to pay down its debt. It had $3.7 billion of debt on its books as of May 3.

The IPO, delayed two years after its-then CEO John Menzer resigned after a stroke, comes amid a market rush. It's the third-busiest week for IPOs since 2000, according to IPO investment adviser Renaissance Capital.

The stock is expected to being trading Friday on the Nasdaq under the symbol "MIK."
 

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