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Crocs to buy back 50% of Blackstone preferred stake as rebound builds
[NEW YORK] Crocs Inc will buy back and convert some of the preferred shares held by Blackstone Group LP in the latest sign that a multiyear turnaround effort has put more spring in the step of the maker of colorful, rubbery shoes.
The footwear maker will pay US$183.7 million for half the preferred stock Blackstone acquired as part of a US$200 million investment in early 2014, Niwot, Colorado-based Crocs said in a statement Monday. Crocs's shares were trading at about US$15 at the time of the initial deal and have since risen to US$27.80. The private equity firm also got two board seats under the 2014 agreement.
"Blackstone's influence and impact on the company has been extremely positive in terms of bringing in new executives and guiding strategy," Chief Executive Officer Andrew Rees said in an interview. "It puts us in a place today where we have the financial strength to buy back" the shares.
After Blackstone's investment, Crocs cut costs by closing underperforming stores and exiting unprofitable markets. It also boosted gross margins by improving the quality of sales and reducing excess inventory. Now, it's looking to grow the business in terms of products, geographic markets and online sales.
Crocs will finance the transaction with a combination of cash on hand and borrowing from its existing credit line, according to the statement. Blackstone has agreed to convert its remaining stake into common stock, creating about 6.9 million shares. It has also agreed to not trade that common stock for nine months.
The transaction will have a positive impact on earnings, according to the company. To illustrate this, Mr Rees said that, on a pro forma basis, if the transaction had closed at the end of 2017, Crocs would have added 18 cents a share to its year-to-date earnings - a 30 per cent increase.
The deal also frees up US$12 million annually that had been paid in dividends to Blackstone, and will give common shareholders greater quarterly profit going forward. Blackstone will retain one of its two board seats, Mr Rees said. He said he hopes the retained director will be Prakash Melwani, chief investment officer of Blackstone's private equity business.