L Brands to spin off Victoria’s Secret by August, hoping to nab higher valuation

Shoppers pass in front of a Victoria’s Secret store at a mall in San Diego, California, April 22, 2021.

Bing Guan | Bloomberg | Getty Images

L Brands said Tuesday it will spin off its Victoria’s Secret brand rather than sell it.

The company said it received interest from multiple potential buyers, but its board concluded that separating Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works into two separate publicly traded companies would be a better option. The spinoffs are expected to be completed by August.

L Brands CEO Andrew Meslow will continue to hold his position and will also lead Bath & Body Works following the spinoff, the company said. Victoria’s Secret CEO Martin Waters will keep leading the stand-alone business following the separation.

“In the last ten months, we have made significant progress in the turnaround of the Victoria’s Secret business,” L Brands Chair Sarah Nash said in a statement.

L Brands shares fell 3.7% in premarket trading.

Boosted outlook

A turnaround takes hold

L Brands said the split will allow both brands to continue to build on the newfound momentum. As separate companies, each will be able to better focus on growth and have greater financial flexibility to adapt to a changing retail landscape, it said.

Victoria’s Secret had long held a dominant market share in the lingerie industry but had fallen out of favor due to its overtly sexy marketing that shunned certain body types. That marketing message wasn’t working for many women, and they had started shopping at other brands, like Aerie, that embraced inclusivity and comfort. Victoria’s Secret has had to pivot to meet their needs.

Since this past holiday season, momentum at Victoria’s Secret has grown. The company’s efforts have included changes in marketing, fewer promotions, and most importantly, new products such as more comfortable items like bralettes.

L Brands also shuttered more than 200 stores in 2020 in a bid to focus on its more profitable locations and invest online.

Analysts at Citi and JPMorgan had recently valued Victoria’s Secret at about $5 billion as a stand-alone business.

L Brands restarted talks with potential buyers for Victoria’s Secret after a sale to the private equity firm Sycamore Partners fell apart last year due to the pandemic. That deal would have valued the lingerie label at $1.1 billion.

Sycamore sued L Brands last Apri, seeking around $525 million to terminate a deal that would have given the private equity firm 55% control of Victoria’s Secret. It argued that L Brands had violated the terms of the agreement, when it failed to pay rent and furloughed workers. L Brands averted a legal battle by agreeing to call off the deal.

The plans for the split were first reported in The New York Times.

L Brands shares are up about 84% year to date. It has a market cap of $19.2 billion.

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