Exclusive: Blackstone, Bain prepare Michaels Stores IPO

NEW YORK Mon Mar 26, 2012 7:47pm EDT

Blackstone Group co-founder Stephen A. Schwarzman attends the eG8 forum in Paris May 25, 2011. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

Blackstone Group co-founder Stephen A. Schwarzman attends the eG8 forum in Paris May 25, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Gonzalo Fuentes

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Blackstone Group LP and Bain Capital LP plan to take Michaels Stores Inc public, nearly six years after they bought North America's largest retailer of arts and crafts for more than $6 billion, four people familiar with the matter said on Monday.

JPMorgan Chase & Co and Goldman Sachs Group Inc are the leads on what could be one of the year's largest IPOs in the retail sector, the sources said. One of the sources said an IPO registration document is to be filed in April.

Blackstone and Bain collectively own 93 percent of Michaels Stores, according to regulatory filings. Spokespeople for both private equity firms declined to comment. A Michaels Stores official did not respond to a request for comment.

Highfields Capital Management LP owns 6.2 percent of Michaels, according to a regulatory filing. A Highfields spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the hedge fund's intentions.

Michaels operates 1,066 retail stores in 49 U.S. states and in Canada. It posted earnings before interest, income taxes, depreciation and amortization of $661 million (EBITDA) in 2011 and had total debt of $3.5 billion as of January 28, 2012.

The IPO could prove a significant test for private equity firms looking to exit investments this year as Bain and Blackstone took over Michaels Stores in 2006, close to the height of the buyout boom, paying a generous price which they will have to recover.

"Basically when these things were going private in the hardlines sector, they were going private at a range of anywhere from 7 to 10 times forward EBITDA, and Michaels got the high end of that range," said Wedbush analyst Joan Storms.

Were the IPO to take off, it would revive a retail sector looking for some luster after the performance of luxury clothing retailer Michael Kors Holdings Ltd which raised $944 million in an IPO in December.

It would also bode well for Bain which, together with KKR & Co LP, is planning to take another retailer public -- Toys R Us Inc. The Wayne, New Jersey company filed its IPO plans with regulators in May 2010, but two sources told Reuters last July that the offering would not happen until 2012.

Barclays Capital and Deutsche Bank AG are also marketing the IPO, the sources said. Representatives of the banks declined to comment.

(Additional reporting by Dhanya Skariachan and Soyoung Kim in New York; Editing by Bernard Orr)