Italy's jewelers in Asian, Middle East sights

Thu Jan 23, 2014 2:14am EST
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By Stephen Jewkes

VICENZA, Italy (Reuters) - Italy's $8 billion jewelry industry is drawing interest from Asian and Middle East investors, keen to exploit Italian style and design as they battle for market share both at home and abroad, industry leaders at a major trade fair said.

Once the world's top exporter of jewelry, Italy now has fierce competition from India, China and Turkey where costs are lower and quality is gradually improving to internationally marketable standards.

And all at a time when the longest recession in 60 years has sapped domestic demand and left many Italian firms short of bank credit to fund development and stay afloat.

According to data from Italian goldsmiths association Federorafi, the sector has slumped 28 percent since 2001 to 9,000 firms -- most of which are small family-owned companies unable to compete in a global market.

Corrado Facco, managing director of Vicenza trade fair which is currently hosting VicenzaORO, said the high-end Italian jewelry sector was ripe for restructuring.

"Acquisitions will be part of the game in the years to come as Italy's mainly family-based market restructures to head off global competition," Facco said.

The trend of acquisitions is becoming fairly well established. In 2011, French luxury group LVMH (LVMH.PA: Quote) snapped up Bulgari for 3.7 billion euros, offering a 60 percent premium to market prices.

Last year France's Kering bought a majority stake in jeweler Pomellato. Italian private equity Clessidra last year took control of Buccellati to help fund growth in Asia.   Continued...

A Damiani necklace is pictured at the Damiani headquarters in downtown Milan September 10, 2009. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo