Looks like Geoffrey the Giraffe might stick his neck out on the stock market once again.
Toys "R" Us could try to raise around $800 million via an IPO in April, depending on the final decision of the private-equity consortium that took the toy maven private in a $6.6 billion leveraged buyout in 2005. That group ultimately shelved a planned 2010 IPO, but they may now feel ready for another try.
The company, which includes Babies "R" Us, FAO Schwartz, and the eponymous toy chain, fared well in the latest holiday season. December same-store sales in the U.S. were up 4.6%, although that followed a 3.5% decline in 2009. Still, that 4.6% gain is the type of improvement that domestically flailing giant Wal-Mart
But the quarter wasn't all tiddlywinks for the toy retailer. Same-store sales at its international segment fell 5% in December. And despite gaining market share from rivals, the company appears to be less than happy with its profitability. In the third quarter, the company reported a wider net loss of $93 million, despite a sales gain of 1.9%. With Amazon.com
Not surprisingly, it looks like profitability's taking a hit from the massive debt incurred in 2005's leveraged buyout. That's part of the impetus behind the potential IPO -- to raise some cash to slim down and refinance the company's bloated debt profile. Toys "R" Us has about $5 billion in debt, and its private-equity masters, Bain Capital, KKR
In addition to the tough retail climate, such massive debt is one reason why investors might want to steer clear of this company, should it become public. That debt load is also a huge reason why Fools should screen IPOs of former leveraged buyouts very carefully, as I explain here.
Given its weighty obligations, Toys "R" Us may end up being no fun for investors.
Jim Royal, Ph.D., does not own shares in any company mentioned here. Wal-Mart is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Amazon.com is a Stock Advisor selection. Wal-Mart is a Global Gains pick. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Wal-Mart. The Fool owns shares of Wal-Mart. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.