October 4, 2016 / 9:11 PM / a year ago

Exclusive: Pool supplies retailer Leslie's explores sale- sources

(Reuters) - The private equity owners of Leslie’s Poolmart Inc are exploring a sale of the world’s largest retailer of swimming pool supplies that could value it at close to $2 billion, including debt, people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

The sale process comes as Leslie’s seeks to capitalize on the preference of many consumers to shop for their pool-related supplies in store, resisting the competitive pressure that other retailers face from shopping websites such as Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O).

CVC Capital Partners Ltd and Leonard Green & Partners LP, the buyout firms that own Leslie‘s, have asked investment bank Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) to run an auction for the company and reach out to potential buyers, the people said.

Leslie’s has 12-month earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of around $200 million, the people added.

The sources asked not to be identified because the matter is confidential. CVC and Goldman declined to comment, while Leslie’s and Leonard Green did not respond to requests for comment.

Phoenix, Arizona-based Leslie’s operated 893 stores and commercial centers as of June. It sells products that include algae control, pool pumps and above-ground pools.

The company’s revenues for the 12 months ending June were approximately $766 million, according to credit ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service Inc.

Leslie’s was taken private in a $140 million deal in 1997 by a Leonard Green-led consortium. Leonard Green sold a majority stake in the company to CVC in 2010 for an undisclosed amount.

Leslie’s has made a series of acquisitions in recent years across the industry, which is still largely occupied by local mom-and-pop businesses. Such acquisitions include South Texas chain Warehouse Pools and Phoenix-based Commercial Pool Supply Company. It also acquired e-commerce retailer Pool Supply World, Inc in 2013.

The pool supply industry can be closely tied with new housing and housing repair. Demand for housing in the United States has been on the rise, as a tightening labor market has been lifting wages.

Moody’s said in July it expected Leslie’s to continue to show low single-digit earnings growth from new store openings, as well as expansion of its commercial and e-commerce businesses.

Leslie’s took on more debt in July to pay a $225 million dividend to CVC and Leonard Green.

Reporting by Lauren Hirsch and Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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