(Bloomberg) -- Fix Price, Russia’s biggest dollar-store retailer, is considering an initial public offering of shares after winning the backing of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. early this year.
The chain is looking at London and Moscow as listing venues for a sale in the first half of next year, and the valuation may be about $6 billion, according to two people familiar with the matter, declining to be identified as talks are private.
An IPO is among the retailer’s strategic options, Fix Price founder Sergei Lomakin said when asked by Bloomberg News, declining to elaborate. He said that he and co-founder Artem Khachatryan sold a minority stake of less than 10% to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. earlier this year. A spokesman for Goldman Sachs in Russia declined to comment.
The Fix Price, operating on a model similar to Dollar Tree Inc. in the U.S., is prospering as wages fail to recover from the 2014 collapse of the ruble, and real incomes fall the most in more than a decade. Increased frugality and the government’s reluctance to impose a coronavirus lockdown may benefit discounters.
“With shrinking incomes, consumers try to avoid shopping in large supermarkets, where you never know how much money you’ll end up spending,” Lomakin said an interview.
After being largely dormant for most of this year, Europe’s IPO market has burst to life, especially for retailers able to leverage shopping trends during the coronavirus pandemic. Russian online retailer Ozon filed Tuesday for an IPO in the U.S., seeking to raise $825 million.
Fix Price reported 16% growth in same-store sales for the first nine months of 2020 and has posted double-digit growth for 15 consecutive quarters.
Discounters of all stripes have been expanding in Russia amid the fall in living standards. No-frills food retailers like Svetofor have been so successful that the country’s biggest grocery chains X5 Retail Group NV and Magnit PJSC have copied the format, opening stores this year with limited assortment and a focus on private-label products.
When Lomakin and Khachatryan opened their first dollar stores in 2007, it was an anomaly in Russia. Bound by a non-compete agreement after selling stakes in discount grocer Kopeyka, they studied the format -- which focuses on non-food goods -- in the U.S. and Japan.
“Our eyes and hands were on fire,” Lomakin said. “It was a new format not yet present in Russia.”
According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Lomakin’s 40% stake may be worth at least $800 million.
Not all Russian retailers have adapted as the economy slowed. Tsentrobuv, co-owned by Lomakin, was declared bankrupt in 2017, according to the RBC online news group. O’Key Group SA, a big-box food-store chain backed by Goldman, has slumped in market value in the past year.
After the ruble’s collapse in 2014, Fix Price slashed imports of non-food goods -- the majority of its sales -- and introduced a range of price points to protect against currency volatility, taking a cue from Canada’s Dollarama Inc., according to Lomakin. It now prices goods from 50 rubles to 199 rubles ($0.65 to $2.60).
Last year, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization reached 19% of revenue. That beats any publicly traded retailer in Russia, according to Gazprombank analyst Marat Ibragimov.
Catering to people’s desire for something novel, Fix Price rotates in about 50 new products a week to draw “treasure hunters,” according to Chief Financial Officer Anton Makhnev.
“With less money for travel and restaurants, people still want to delight themselves,” Makhnev said. “So consumers are turning to us.”
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