Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

KKR-Backed National Vision Climbs After $348 Million IPO

Updated on
  • Eyewear retailer jumps as much as 32 percent in trading debut
  • Georgia company’s same-store sales have grown for 15 years

National Vision Holdings Inc. surged in its trading debut after raising $348 million in an initial public offering, more than it had first targeted.

The shares climbed as much as 32 percent and were up 26 percent to $27.68 at 2:37 p.m. in New York Thursday.

Investors were willing to pay up for a piece of the KKR & Co.-backed eyewear retailer and its 62 straight quarters of same-store sales growth. National Vision sold 15.8 million shares on Wednesday for $22 apiece, above the marketed range of $18 to $20 each.

With 980 stores in the U.S., that consistent rise resulted mostly from an increase in the number of customers, not merely from existing customers spending more, the company said in its latest IPO filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

National Vision Chief Executive Officer Reade Fahs said in an interview Thursday that the company plans to open about 75 new locations a year. That includes America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses, Eyeglass World and the Vision Center at Wal-Mart locations. At the same time, he plans to capitalize on a shift in U.S. employers’ spending on benefits.

As the cost of health-care continues to rise, companies are looking to further limit costs -- sometimes scaling back on employee benefits. While purchases covered by vision insurance makes up some of National Vision’s business, it has focused on customers who are paying out of pocket, Fahs said.

‘Real Value’

“When it’s your money, you seek out real value,” he said.

The company posted net income of $15 million on revenue of $1.2 billion last year. In the first six months of 2017, the company reported net income of $16 million on revenue of $707 million. It plans to use the IPO proceeds to pay down debt, according to its filing.

KKR bought a stake in Duluth, Georgia-based National Vision in 2014 from Berkshire Partners. The sponsors plan on holding 60 percent and 14 percent of the stock, respectively, after the offering.

Bank of America Corp., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Citigroup Inc. and KKR led the offering. National Vision trades on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the symbol EYE.

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