By Michelle Graff
New York--Two of the largest specialty jewelers in the world, Signet Jewelers Ltd. and Zale Corp., will become one.

The companies announced in a joint release issued Wednesday morning that Signet, parent company of Akron, Ohio-based Sterling Jewelers Inc., is paying $21 a share for Zale. The transaction has an enterprise value, including debt, of $1.4 billion.

According to the release, Zale will continue to operate under its current CEO, Theo Killion, who will report directly to Signet CEO Mike Barnes after the transaction closes. According to a presentation given Wednesday morning, Signet also intends to maintain Zale’s brands as standalone brands within the Signet portfolio.

The transaction is expected to close this year.

“Having successfully completed our multi-year turnaround program to return to profitability, Signet’s operating strengths will enable us to accelerate Zale’s performance improvement for the benefit of our current and future guests,” Killion said.

The merger of Signet and Zale, which ranked as the No. 1 and No. 4 jewelers respectively in the United States on National Jeweler’s last State of the Majors list, creates a company that will operate some of the most recognizable jewelry brands in the world, including Kay Jewelers, Jared the Galleria of Jewelry, Zales and the Piercing Pagoda in the United States, H. Samuel and Ernest Jones in the United Kingdom and Peoples Jewellers in Canada.

The combined companies will operate more than 3,600 stores plus all the brands' online operations, generating annual sales of more than $6 billion. The company will employ almost 30,000 people.

Commenting on the transaction, Barnes said, “The addition of Zale to the Signet family is consistent with our long-term growth strategy and leverages our combined operating expertise to create better choices for our customers, new opportunities for our employees and makes us a more attractive partner to our vendors.”

The transaction, financed by bank debt, other debt financing and the securitization of a significant portion of Signet’s accounts receivable portfolio, is subject to approval by Zale’s stockholders, certain regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions.

More details will be released as they become available. 

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