Watches of Switzerland considers London listing

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s biggest watch retailer Watches of Switzerland Group said on Thursday it was considering an initial public offering in London, as it looks to reduce debt and make acquisitions.

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The company, which sells brands such as Rolex, Richemont’s Cartier and Swatch Group’s Omega, is looking to trade on the main market of the London Stock Exchange, using its premium listing segment, and sell 25 percent of new and existing shares.

A premium listing meets more stringent rules than the European Union’s minimum requirements.

The IPO could value the company to up to 1 billion pounds ($1.31 billion), or between 12 and 15 times its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization, according to a source familiar with the matter.

A second source, however, pointed to a more modest valuation between of 600 million and 800 million pounds for the company, whose revenues were 746 million pounds and EBITDA 67.7 million in the year to January 2019.

Owned by U.S.-based private equity firm Apollo Global Management, Watches of Switzerland has 125 shops in Britain and also opened several standalone stores in the United States, including branches in Las Vegas and New York.

Watches of Switzerland Group said it accounted for half of all Rolex sold in the UK in 2018.

“Today’s announcement signals the next stage in that journey, leveraging our scale, retail and e-commerce expertise, and strong stakeholder relationships to continue our profitable growth strategy,” Chief Executive Brian Duffy said in a statement.

The global luxury watch market is a structurally attractive market, underpinned by favorable, long-term growth in both price and volume.

Watches of Switzerland would join Middle Eastern payment firms Network International and Finablr to end a drought in the European IPO market, where proceeds have fallen to their lowest in more than a decade in the first three months of 2019, according to Refinitiv data.

Barclays and Goldman Sachs International are global coordinators on the deal, while BNP Paribas and Investec are acting as bookrunners and N.M. Rothschild is acting as financial adviser.

Reporting by Clara Denina, editing by Sinead Cruise, Jane Merriman and Kirsten Donovan