5 Min Read
* Dollar General IPO priced at $21, range had been $21-$23
* KKR sells 11.4 mln of the shares, to still own 89.5 pct
* rue21 shares price at $19, over $16-$18 range
By Phil Wahba and Clare Baldwin
NEW YORK, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Discount retailer Dollar General Corp (DG.N) priced shares in its initial public offering at $21 each, at the low end of expectations, in the latest effort by a private equity firm to unload a portfolio company in a market that has become unreceptive to such deals.
Dollar General, which is almost entirely owned by private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co [KKR.UL], had expected the shares to sell for between $21 and $23 each.
Dollar General and KKR sold a total of 34.1 million shares, yielding gross proceeds of $716.1 million in the IPO.
KKR, the only shareholder to offer stock in the IPO, is selling 11.4 million shares, after which it will still own 89.5 percent of the company. KKR bought Dollar General for $7.3 billion in July 2007.
"Private equity firms sell their portion and generally give themselves a large dividend and a lot of people have frowned on that," said Scott Sweet, a senior managing partner with advisory firm IPO Boutique. "There's been too much greed."
Sweet, who credited KKR for bringing management that turned Dollar General around, said the IPO was priced in a manner to increase the odds the shares will rise in their debut on Friday and beat the lackluster performances of many buyout-backed IPOs since September.
The Dollar General IPO is the largest new offering by a retailer recently as investors avoided shares in the beleaguered sector during the recession.
But discount chains have weathered the recession by drawing cash-strapped consumers away from other stores. Same store sales, or sales at stores open for at least a year, at Dollar General were up 8.6 percent over the same period, besting the vast majority of retailers.
KKR and rivals have sought to tap the IPO market to divest themselves of portfolio companies -- firms owned by private equity -- and will closely watch Dollar General's performance on Friday to further gauge the market's openness to buyout-backed IPOs.
Private equity firm Blackstone Group (BX.N) also recently said it is considering IPOs of up to 8 of its portfolio companies.
Dollar General, which is based in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, and operates about 8,577 stores in the United States, is offering 22.7 million shares in the IPO.
Dollar General will use all of its share of the IPO proceeds to pay down debt.
The IPO's underwriters, led by Citi, Goldman Sachs & Co and KKR, have the option to buy another 5.1 million shares.
Dollar General reported quarterly sales of $2.9 billion for the three months ended July 31, up 11.2 percent over the year earlier results.
Dollar General shares are set to begin trade on Friday on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "DG."
Separately, youth apparel retailer rue21 Inc RUE.O, which operates 500 stores in the United States geared at youths, priced shares in its IPO at $19 apiece, above the expected range of $16 to $18.
The retailer sold 6.77 million shares, raising a total of $128.5 million.
The Warrendale, Pennsylvania-based retailer itself is selling 1.65 million shares in the offering, while stockholders such BNP Paribas North America (BNPP.PA), are selling 6.77 million shares. rue21 will use its share of the proceeds to pay down debt, according to a regulatory filing.
Funds advised by private equity firm Apax Partners, which are the largest stockholders, are not selling any shares in the IPO. Their stake in rue21 will fall to 57.9 percent from 62.2 percent.
The underwriters, which include Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs & Co and J.P.Morgan, have the option to buy another 1 million shares.
rue21's same store sales, or sales at stores open for at least a year, rose 4.1 percent in the six months ended Aug. 1, 2009, while overall sales rose 33.3 percent to $233.1 million, with net income of $8.3 million.
Shares are set to begin trade on Friday on Nasdaq under the ticker symbol "RUE."
Reporting by Phil Wahba and Clare Baldwin, additional reporting by Megan Davies; Editing by Phil Berlowitz, Bernard Orr