Levi Strauss shares soar 30% in IPO

Maker of Levi's 501 blue jeans raises $623 million

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Levi's  

(CNN) - Levi Strauss surged more than 30% during its public debut Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange.

The iconic maker of Levi's 501 blue jeans raised $623 million from the stock sale. Levi Strauss priced the initial public offering at $17 a share, above its expected price range.

At an early trading price of $22.97 a share, the 166-year old company is valued at about $8.9 billion.

Traders at the NYSE were allowed to wear jeans to commemorate the occasion. There is usually a strict dress code that prohibits jeans on the floor of the exchange.

Levi Strauss has returned to life as a publicly traded company after an absence that lasted more than 30 years. The company was publicly traded in the 1970s and early 1980s, but went private in 1985.

It could be the first of many well-known, brand name companies to go public this year. But unlike Lyft, Uber and many other ballyhooed Silicon Valley startups, Levi Strauss is profitable.

It reported earnings last year of $285.2 million, a slight increase from 2017. Sales rose 14% in 2018 to nearly $5.6 billion.

But while Levi Strauss is a household name in America, it has struggled to catch on in some emerging markets.

The company is hoping to expand in China and Brazil, which accounted for less than 4% of total sales last year.

Levi Strauss CEO Charles "Chip" Bergh said in an interview with CNN's Richard Quest on Thursday that the company was planning to use some of the proceeds from the stock sale to boost its presence in overseas markets.

It is doing well in India. Levi Strauss opened a store there in December 2017, and followed up with an e-commerce site in January 2018.

Copyright 2019 by CNN NewSource. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.