Top Stories
Top Stories
Wires

UPDATE 1-Chewy shares surge 63% in debut as investors bank on booming pet market

Tamara Mathias and Manas Mishra

[email protected] (Adds background, expert comment)

June 14 (Reuters) - Shares of Chewy Inc soared 63% in their debut, giving the online pet products retailer a market value of $14.35 billion, more than four times the price PetSmart paid for it in 2017.

Shares opened at $36 and rose as high as $40.75. The company's IPO price was $22 per share.

Indicating solid investor appetite for a piece of the over $70 billion U.S. pet market, the offering was priced higher than the expected range and the company sold more shares than originally planned.

The company had set a price range of $19 to $21 per share, which was raised earlier this week from $17 to $19 per share.

Chewy raised $123.2 million from the offering and parent PetSmart will receive nearly $900 million.

The online retailer of puppy shampoo and cat treats, which has 11 million customers, is betting on the "pet humanization" trend where owners splurge on their pets, whom they consider part of the family.

The majority of the stock was sold by PetSmart, owned by private equity firm BC Partners, as the largest U.S. pet products retailer looks to pare its debt pile.

Chewy said its revenue surged about 68% to $3.53 billion in 2018 from a year earlier, while net loss narrowed to $267.9 million from $338.1 million.

The company, which is yet to make a profit, in its IPO pitch also highlighted the industry's resilience during downturns.

However, the market is turning fiercely competitive.

Dania Beach, Florida-based Chewy competes with traditional brick-and-mortar retailers such as Walmart Inc and Petco Animal Supplies Inc, as well as Amazon Inc and online seller PetMed Express Inc.

Chewy holds a 45% share of the online dog and cat food market, matching Amazon's share, according to research firm 1010data.

Last July, Chewy launched its pharmacy business, pushing into the lucrative prescription drugs market that has long been the turf of veterinarians and their partners.

"If (Chewy) can clear legal and registration hurdles, they'll have no trouble competing out there," said Phillip Cooper, an independent consultant who advises pet industry investors. "Chewy has a tremendous following at the consumer level... these guys know how many dogs people have, what their ages are and if you lose a dog they send a bouquet of flowers!"

The blockbuster IPO follows disappointing debuts of Uber Technologies and Lyft. Other IPOs of this year such as those of Pinterest Inc, vegan burger maker Beyond Meat Inc and video-conferencing startup Zoom Video Communications Inc have been trading higher.

PetSmart and BC Partners will retain control of Chewy through Class B shares, which carry more voting power.

(Reporting by Manas Mishra and Tamara Mathias in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)