Esprit Holdings

Esprit right issue taps market for HK$5.2b

Apparel retailer needs money to revive brand after sales drop 22 per cent in the first quarter

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2012, 4:19am

Esprit Holdings plans to raise as much as HK$5.2 billion in a rights offer to fund efforts to revive its brand after reporting a first-quarter sales decline.

The apparel company will offer investors the right to buy one new share at HK$8 each for every two held, Esprit said in a statement to the stock exchange yesterday.

Sales dropped 22.08 per cent to HK$6.6 billion in the quarter to September, it said in a separate statement.

Esprit is using the rights issue to raise funds after missing earnings estimates for five years in a row and losing customers to rivals such as Inditex's Zara.

Chief executive Jose Manuel Martinez Gutierrez took over last month after the previous incumbent and chairman quit within 24 hours of each other in June.

"This is definitely going to be a blow to investors," said Steven Leung, an institutional sales director at UOB Kay Hian. "The rights issue may reflect a bigger cash-flow problem. The company is spending way more than it earns, and we haven't seen much progress in the transformation so far."

Esprit said it would issue no more than 655.78 million rights shares. Net proceeds from the issue would be at least HK$5.02 billion.

Excluding store closures, sales declined 10.9 per cent, Esprit said. On a comparable store basis, sales were down 0.2 per cent.

The company did not have plans for further fund-raising and would stick to its budget of HK$18.5 billion for its transformation strategy, chief financial officer Thomas Tang Wing-yung said yesterday.

Esprit would see "a slow turnaround", Martinez said.

His predecessor, Ronald Van der Vis, hired in 2009, laid out last year a turnaround plan that included makeovers of existing stores and new ones on the mainland.

Esprit reported sales of HK$30.17 billion in the year ended June, a decline of 10.7 per cent. Net income in the second half was HK$318 million, compared with a loss of HK$2.06 billion a year earlier, according to Bloomberg.

Esprit's capital expenditure is expected to reach HK$1.5 billion in the current financial year, compared with HK$1.4 billion in the year just ended.