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Fashion designer Michael Kors, background center, watches as trader Dudley Devine, left, and specialist Patrick Murphy, right, confer before the IPO of Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. begins trading on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011. The designer's company raised $944 million after selling 47.2 million shares in its initial public stock offering Wednesday night, valuing the company at $3.8 billion. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Michael Kors designs a successful IPO
Investing » Michael Kors stock launch defies soft year for investment offerings.
First Published Dec 17 2011 01:01 am • Last Updated Dec 17 2011 04:09 pm

Portland, Ore. • Michael Kors understands what fashion-conscious shoppers desire. Apparently, he knows what investors want, too.

The market clamored for a piece of the designer’s company, Michael Kors Holdings Ltd., in its initial public offering.

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It had planned to sell about 41.7 million shares for between $17 and $19 each but priced at $20 last week. The company raised $944 million Wednesday after selling 47.2 million shares in the IPO, valuing the company at $3.8 billion.

Shares closed their first day of trading Thursday at $24.20.

The success of the Michael Kors IPO is a testament to the designer’s popularity and the resilience of well-to-do shoppers in an otherwise weak economy. It also defies a soft year for companies looking to raise money through new offerings of stock. And for Kors personally, it means a payday of more than $100 million.

"The IPO market has not shown grandiose returns, but this was on everyone’s buy list," said Scott Sweet, a senior managing partner at IPOBoutique.com.

Kors is an American designer who became a household name in recent years as a judge on fashion design competition show "Project Runway." He has been among the top names in fashion for years, dressing countless celebrities, and even first lady Michelle Obama, in his signature simple style with a hint of high-fashion glitz.

His designs, which are more practical luxury than haute couture, have made him an enduring hit with men and women.

The company, based in Hong Kong, makes high-end handbags, shoes and clothing that it sells at its own shops and through other retailers. A Michael Kors crocodile handbag can run more than $2,000 and a halter dress more than $7,000, but the bulk of its business is centered on more affordable luxuries for well-off shoppers such as $300 sunglasses and $600 purses.

While most consumers are feeling the drag of the economy, wealthy shoppers in the U.S. and abroad are spending more freely. That has helped companies such as jewelry seller Tiffany & Co., handbag maker Coach Inc. and luxury retailer Nordstrom Inc. recover from the recession faster than the rest of the industry.

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In 2011, U.S. retail sales of luxury items are up more than 5 percent from a mid-recession low in September 2009, according to an estimate by MasterCard SpendingPulse.

Michael Kors has been one of the beneficiaries of that spending.

The company’s strong performance is helping to fuel rapid expansion. It added 30 stores in its 2010 fiscal year and plans to open 40 more in fiscal 2011.

The company operates 184 stores in North America and 37 internationally and will open a store in Salt Lake City’s City Creek Center in March 2012.

Michael Kors stock trades under the ticker symbol KORS.

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