NEW YORK (AP) — Levi Strauss & Co.’s return to the public markets got an enthusiastic reception from investors who believe the iconic brand is ready for a comeback — and still has a lot more room to grow.
The stock, which is listed under the ticker “LEVI,” opened for trading Thursday at $22.22, above the $17 offering price and blowing past the originally expected range of $14 to $16. As of Thursday’s close, shares popped nearly 32 percent, closing at $22.41 per share. That gave Levi’s a market value of $8.64 billion, according to FactSet.
Levi’s seems to have successfully convinced investors, at least for now, that it has a lot of opportunities to expand beyond just jeans, from tops to bolstering its women’s business. In its prospectus, the company says it plans to use the proceeds from the public offering to expand more aggressively into China, India and Brazil and also build out more retail stores, which as of late last year totaled 824.
But jeans are still the company’s mainstay and that was apparent on Thursday, when in a rare move the New York Stock Exchange suspended its “no jeans” policy to commemorate Levi’s re-entry, transforming the floor from suits and ties into a sea of blue denim, with its traders sporting jeans and denim jackets.
More than 120 employees from Levi’s global offices, including its CEO Chip Bergh outfitted in denim, were on the trading floor. On Wednesday, the NYSE even Tweeted, “Tomorrow we’ll be in our 501s.”
The 166-year-old company is proving to Wall Street there’s staying power for a legacy name that dates back to 1853 when its namesake founder started a wholesales dry goods business in San Francisco. Strauss and tailor Jacob Davis invented jeans 20 years later after receiving a patent to create cotton denim workpants with copper rivets in certain areas like the pocket corner to make them stronger. By the 1920s, Levi’s original 501 jeans had become top-selling men’s workpants, according to its corporate website.
Levi’s previously went public in 1971, but Strauss’ descendants, the Haas family, took it private again in 1985. Today, it stands out from a string of tech companies — from Spotify to Dropbox — that have made their debuts in the public markets in recent months.
“I would like to say we’re the original Silicon Valley startup,” said Bergh, dressed in 501 jeans and a denim jacket, during an interview with The Associated Press at the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday. “We started during the Gold Rush, and we are still headquartered in San Francisco. And I do think that that story has resonated with investors.”