Levi’s going public with $6.6 billion valuation

Levi Strauss shares are in demand as the blue jeans maker returns to the stock market after a 34-year absence.

The clothing retailer priced its initial public offering on Wednesday at $17 per share, valuing the company at about $6.6 billion. That’s higher than the price range of $14 to $16 that the company had previously set.

The offering will raise $623 million for the San Francisco-based inventor of blue jeans. It’s just one in a series of high-profile IPOs expected to hit US markets this year.

The company’s stock will start trading Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “LEVI.” The exchange said that traders will get in the spirit by wearing Levi’s denim from head-to-toe,” breaking with a longstanding “no jeans allowed” policy.

Levi’s was first taken public in 1971 before being privatized in 1985. The money it’s raising in its return to the public markets is part of the 166-year-old company’s plans to expand.

Unlike many other retailers today, Levi’s isn’t seeking to completely reinvent itself.

It says its core business in men’s trousers “has been and will continue to be a key driver” of overall profits. And it’s doubling down on its iconic 501 jeans, which have stayed in style with customers for years and continue to be updated over time.

But Levi’s is also hoping to shift away from being seen as just a jeans company.

“We are focusing our product design and marketing efforts to reshape our global consumer perceptions from a US men’s bottoms-oriented company to a global lifestyle leader for both men and women,” it said in a February regulatory filing.

To do that, the apparel brand wants to push deeper into different categories, such as tops and women’s wear.

The company is also looking to expand in key markets such as China, India and Brazil.

China, for instance, makes up about 20% of the global apparel market but only represented 3% of Levi’s revenue in the last fiscal year, the company said. To chase Chinese shoppers, the brand has installed a new management team in the country that plans to open new outlets and carry out a strategy tailored to the local market.

Levi’s listing is expected to gauge the appetite of US investors as they gear up for a series of big IPOs that are in the pipeline.

Ride-hailing firm Lyft will make its long-anticipated debut on the Nasdaq next week, while investors are watching closely for announcements from other top startups like Uber and Pinterest.

If Levi’s and Lyft’s offerings go well, some experts say it could encourage others to follow suit.

“It’s going to be a big year for IPOs,” Jackie Kelley, EY’s Americas IPO leader, told CNN Business last month.