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Vera Bradley set to go public

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Vera Bradley Inc. is set to make its debut as a publicly traded company.

The Fort Wayne-based handbag maker’s initial public offering is expected to be priced by Wednesday morning, positioning company shares to begin trading on NASDAQ under the symbol VRA.

Vera Bradley raised about $165 million by offering 11 million shares—7 million currently held by insiders and another 4 million new shares. The estimated offering price is $14 to $16 each.

But Morningstar analyst Pete Wahlstrom predicts the IPO could bring $18 a share because of higher-than-expected interest. That would push the total value of the IPO to $198 million.

It is the first Indiana-based company to go public since Carmel-based used-vehicle auctioneer KAR Auction Services Inc. raised $300 million in December.

Two more Indiana companies are set to follow Vera Bradley.

Evansville-based UCI International, a supplier of replacement parts for the light- and heavy-duty vehicle aftermarket, said in July it plans to raise $200 million. And biopharmaceutical company Endocyte Inc. filed its IPO in August.

Endocyte, headquartered at Purdue University Park in West Lafayette, has yet to determine the number of shares to be offered and their price range.

Having three IPOs filed so far this year is quite a turnaround from recent years. Only two were filed in 2009. Besides KAR, Evansville-based infant-formula-maker Mead Johnson Nutrition Co. staged a $782 million IPO in February 2009, but then promptly moved its headquarters to the Chicago area.

If both UCI International and Endocyte also go public this year, the three completed IPOs would equal 2007’s output. No more than three companies in Indiana have gone public since five did in 2004.

“It’s been a horrible IPO market for quite awhile,” said David Millard, chairman of the business department at locally based law firm Barnes & Thornburg LLP. “This is a great sign to see companies take it the rest of the way.”

Nationally, 213 companies have filed IPOs, which represents a 222-percent increase from last year—the lowest output since 2001.

Meanwhile, Patricia Miller and Barbara Bradley Baekgaard, two friends who founded Vera Bradley in 1982, are the biggest sellers of company stock.

Miller, Indiana’s former secretary of commerce, is selling 2.8 million shares in the company’s IPO, likely generating a windfall of at least $39 million. Baekgaard is selling 2.2 million shares, likely generating at least $30.8 million.

Both founders will remain big shareholders. Together with her husband, P. Michael Miller, Patricia Miller would own more than 10 million shares representing a quarter of the company. Baekgaard would own 11 million shares representing nearly 30 percent of the company.

The pair no longer lead the business but remain on the board. Miller, 72, serves as the company’s national spokeswoman, and Baekgaard, 71, serves as chief creative officer.

The company sells online as well as through 3,300 independent retailers and 28 of its own full-price stores.

The first full-price store opened just three years ago. Vera Bradley says in its SEC filing that it believes the United States can support more than 300 of the stores.

Vera Bradley reported profit in its latest fiscal year of $43.2 million on $288.9 million in revenue.
 

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