Investors more confident about retail companies

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Kai Ryssdal: If you made your holiday gifts this year -- and if you did, good for you -- there's a decent chance you bought your materials at a Jo-Ann Fabric and Crafts store someplace. The chain sells, just like it sounds, arts and crafts and sewing supplies. Not an outfit you'd ordinarily think of as a target for private equity buyers. But that's exactly what happened today.

Marketplace's Alisa Roth explains, it's not really about scrapbooking or cross-stitching.


Alisa Roth: Don't expect Wall Street types to suddenly develop an interest in embroidery or macrame.

Mark Mandel: Yeah, I don't think they have a strong desire to be arts and crafts people.

Mark Mandel follows Joann Stores for ThinkEquity. He says Leonard Green, the private equity firm, is just looking for a good bargain.

Mandel: But generally it's a fairly stable business, it's fairly predictable. A well-run company is going to generate significant cash and Jo-Ann's falls into that group.

A lot of Leonard Green's holdings fit into that group: the Container Store, Whole Foods, Neiman Marcus and most recently, J. Crew. What all those companies have in common is they're successful stores.

Colin Blaydon directs the Center for Private Equity and Entrepreneurship at the Tuck School. He says everybody, especially private equity, is excited about retail these days.

Colin Blaydon: They think the recent unpleasantness, the recession, the sluggish start to any recovery has put the retail operations in a hole that with a recovery looming in front of them, they expect them to climb out of and show very attractive growth.

Jo-Ann Stores has until early next year to consider other buyout offers. But Mandel, the analyst, and others say this one will be hard to beat. The $61 a share is more than a third above yesterday's closing price.

In New York, I'm Alisa Roth for Marketplace.

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