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US Foods Deal Helps to Defrost the IPO Market

A US. Foods truck is shown on delivery in in San DiegoA US. Foods truck is shown on delivery in in San Diego
Is the IPO market unfreezing?Photograph by © Mike Blake / Reuters

Food distributor US Foods Holding raised $1.02 billion on Wednesday in this year’s second-largest U.S. initial public offering thus far, as new stock market flotations pick up pace.

US Foods, which followed real estate investment trust MGM Growth Properties LLC’s $1.2 billion IPO last month, has been followed closely by buyout firms because it is the first major leveraged buyout going public since stock market jitters put such debt-laden offerings on ice at the end of last year. The sale valued the company at around $5.1 billion including debt. The company, which has annual revenue of about $23 billion, has roughly $5 billion in debt, and will use the IPO proceeds to pay that down.

The IPO also offers a path for US Food’s private equity owners – Clayton, Dubilier & Rice LLC and KKR & Co LP – to sell their shares in the company after their attempted outright sale of US Foods to larger peer Sysco Corp for $8.2 billion, including debt, fell apart last year when the U.S. Federal Trade Commission moved to block it.

Two more private equity-owned companies (albeit much smaller) priced their IPOs on Wednesday: Cotiviti Holdings Inc, owned by Advent International Corp, raised $237.5 million, while GMS Inc, owned by AEA Investors, raised $147 million.

Last year, several highly indebted IPO aspirants were given the cold shoulder by investors. Grocery retailer Albertsons Cos Inc and luxury retailer Neiman Marcus delayed their IPO, while U.S. payment processing company First Data Corp downsized its IPO. When credit markets are weak, investors have concerns about a company’s future ability to efficiently pay down debt.

Clayton, Dubilier & Rice and KKR bought US Foods from European grocery Royal Ahold NV in 2007 in a transaction valued at $7.1 billion.

Based in Rosemont, Illinois, US Foods is scheduled to list its shares on Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange under ticker symbol ‘USFD’. The 44.4 million shares were priced at $23 each, within its previously indicated $21 to $24 range.

Goldman Sachs & Co, Morgan Stanley and J.P Morgan are among the underwriters for the offering.