June 9, 2017 / 7:01 PM / in 5 months

Exclusive: Nordstrom family launches search for buyout partner - sources

(Reuters) - A group of Nordstrom Inc family members is talking to buyout firms about raising $1 billion to $2 billion in equity to fund a potential bid to take the U.S. department store operator private, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Nordstrom store is seen at a mall in a Denver suburb May 16, 2008. The upscale department store chain Nordstrom Inc. reported earnings that topped Wall Street estimates. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Nordstrom said on Thursday the family group, which owns 31.2 percent of the 116-year-old retailer, was studying ways to take the company private. The group is now looking for help in funding an offer that would convince the company’s other shareholders to back the deal.

The family group started talks with private equity firms this week, and is expected to spend at least a couple of weeks to select an equity partner, the sources said on Friday, without identifying which firms are in talks with Nordstrom. Once the group has secured equity financing, it will begin to make arrangements for a debt financing package, the sources added.

The sources asked not to be identified because the deliberations are confidential. Nordstrom did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Nordstrom shares were trading up 6.2 percent at $47.40 on the news in afternoon trading in New York on Friday, giving the company a market capitalization of close to $8 billion.

The family group that is considering a bid for the company comprises Nordstrom Chairman Emeritus Bruce Nordstrom, his sister Anne Gittinger, President James Nordstrom and Nordstrom co-Presidents Blake, Peter and Erik Nordstrom.

Nordstrom operates 354 stores in 40 states, which includes its Nordstrom branded full-line stores and off-price discount chain Nordstrom Rack. The company also operates stores in Canada and Puerto Rico.

Seattle-based Nordstrom has long been viewed as the jewel of the department store industry. Its affordable high-end price point distinguishes it from less-expensive peers, such as Macy’s Inc, without making it too exclusive.

However, like many mall-based retailers, Nordstrom has been hit by the rise of internet shopping, and has been seeking to downsize its department store footprint while boosting its e-commerce presence.

Nordstrom reported first-quarter same-store sales last month that fell short of estimates, triggering a drop in its shares.

Nordstrom has closed fewer stores than its peers. James Nordstrom said on Nordstrom’s first-quarter earnings call in May that the company will consider store closures on a case-by-case basis, rather than through any sweeping measures.

Some private equity firms may be apprehensive about adding too much debt on Nordstrom.

Competitor Neiman Marcus Group, which is owned by buyout firm Ares Management LP and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), offers a cautionary tale; it has been working with a financial restructuring adviser this year to cope with its $4.7 billion debt pile, much of which is down to its $6 billion leveraged buyout in 2013.

Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis and Lauren Hirsch in New York; Editing by Bill Rigby and Meredith Mazzilli

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