Germany's luxury footwear maker Birkenstock set to go public

The company, which plans to list its shares on the New York Stock Exchange, will continue to be controlled by private equity firm L Catterton

Sandals of the German sandals and shoes maker Birkenstock are pictured in a store window at the company's store in Berlin on February 26, 2021. Germany's unabashedly frumpy but comfortable flat sandals Birkenstock stepped into the luxury leagues on February 26, 2021, with an LVMH-backed company and the French group's billionaire owner snapping up a majority stake in the iconic brand.
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Birkenstock has filed for an initial public offering, in another sign of the allure US equity markets hold for European firms seeking a valuation uplift.

The German footwear maker, whose iconic sandals are worn by hippies and preppies alike, will continue to be controlled by private equity firm L Catterton, a filing on Tuesday revealed. The company will disclose the proposed terms of the share sale in a later filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

The IPO could value Birkenstock at more than $8 billion, Bloomberg News reported previously.

Goldman Sachs Group, JP Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley are leading the offering, which comes more than two years after L Catterton and the family investment company of billionaire Bernard Arnault acquired a majority stake in Birkenstock, valuing it at about €4 billion ($4.3 billion).

The US market for IPOs looks like it’s finally coming back to life after 18 months in the doldrums. Birkenstock’s IPO filing comes hot the heels of others from SoftBank Group's semiconductor designer Arm, grocery delivery firm Instacart and marketing and data automation provider Klaviyo.

Founded nearly 250 years ago, Birkenstock developed a contoured insole for greater comfort. The modern, cork-lined sandals took hold in the 1970s, as shoppers from the US Southwest to Europe became enamoured with the comfy style. Birkenstock has since become a high-fashion brand, launching collaborations with luxury names such as Dior, Manolo Blahnik and Valentino, and spawning variants from labels including Celine and Givenchy.

More than half – 54 per cent – of the company’s customers are in the Americas with Europe accounting for 36 per cent, according to Tuesday’s filing. While women make up 72 per cent of Birkenstock customers, the footwear has broad cross-generational appeal, led by millennials with 31 per cent of sales, followed by baby boomers with 30 per cent, Gen X with 27 per cent, and Gen Z with 12 per cent.

A listing would cap off a successful run for the company, whose family heirs stepped back from management duties about a decade ago. Since then, it’s streamlined strategy, launched high-profile collaborations and experienced explosive growth in demand.

“We see ourselves as the oldest start-up on earth,” chief executive Oliver Reichert said in a letter to investors included in the filing.

“We are a brand backed by a family tradition of a quarter of a millennium with the resilience, timeless relevance, and credibility of a multi-generational business.”

Sales have been boosted of late by the blockbuster Barbie movie, whose star Margot Robbie sports a pair of pink Birkenstocks in one scene.

For the six months ended March 31, the company had a net profit of €40 million on revenue of €644 million, as indicated by the filing. That compares with €73 million on revenue of €543 million during the same period a year ago.

Birkenstock has also been investing heavily in building out its production sites in Germany, including a new €120 million factory in Pasewalk, a town north of Berlin.

The company, which will become Birkenstock Holding Ltd, plans to list its shares on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol BIRK.

Updated: September 13, 2023, 6:49 AM