January 7, 2017 / 1:27 AM / 7 months ago

The Limited owner almost doubles investment, but closing all stores

(Reuters) - Sun Capital Partners Inc, the private equity owner of Limited Stores LLC, disclosed on Friday it has almost doubled its investment in the troubled U.S. women's apparel retailer, even as it announced that it will shut all approximately 250 The Limited stores amid losses.

Sun Capital Partners told investors in a letter that it has made 1.8 times its $50 million investment in Limited Stores, thanks to prior distributions and dividends, according to an email to investors seen by Reuters.

Sun Capital also said in the letter that it is writing down the remaining equity value of Limited Stores to zero.

The disclosure illustrates how private equity firms can boast a profit from companies whose equity value has been wiped out, having previously recouped their original investment by taking dividends from these companies, often by having them borrow more money to fund the dividends.

"We have worked very hard and made significant investments over nine years to improve operations and create a sustainable business at The Limited," Sun Capital told Reuters in an emailed statement.

Limited Stores said on Friday that it would close all its brick-and-mortar retail locations effective Sunday.

"In an increasingly challenging environment for mall-based retail and women's apparel, we are very disappointed that the company has had to make the difficult decision to close its retail locations," Sun Capital also said.

Limited Stores declined to comment.

Sun Capital acquired a majority stake in Limited Stores in 2007 and bought the rest of the company in 2010.

Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, called Sun Capital's return on its investment "an unusually happy ending for the private equity firm," though he added that the nine-year period during which Sun Capital was an investor in Limited Stores was a "little on the long end."

Brick-and-mortar retailers, from smaller chains like The Limited to mall anchors including Macy's Inc (M.N), have been hard hit as shoppers move online and to offprice sellers. Last year, retailers including Aeropostale Inc and Pacific Sunwear of California Inc filed for bankruptcy.

With the shutdown of The Limited stores, the positions of 4,000 workers, including 800 full-time permanent employees, would be eliminated, according to people familiar with the company's plans, who were not authorized to discuss the matter with the media.

In the letter to investors, Sun Capital said Limited Stores is evaluating strategic alternatives for the company's remaining e-commerce business and intellectual property.

Reporting by Jessica DiNapoli in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler

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