Qatari royals buy Italian fashion icon Valentino

Thu Jul 12, 2012 10:12am EDT
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By Lisa Jucca and Simon Meads

MILAN/LONDON (Reuters) - Italian fashion house Valentino has been snapped up by the Qatari royal family for 700 million euros ($857.5 million), the latest purchase of a top European luxury brand by an emerging market investor.

The luxury label loved by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Audrey Hepburn said on Thursday that Mayhoola for Investments S.P.C, an investment vehicle backed by a leading Qatari, had bought it from UK-based private equity fund Permira and minority investors the Marzotto textile entrepreneurs.

Valentino did not disclose financial details of the sale or name the investor.

But two sources close to the deal told Reuters the royals of the tiny Gulf state of Qatar, among the world's most active investors, had acquired Valentino for 700 million euros, or 31.5 times its 2011 EBITDA.

That's well above LVMH's purchase of jewelry maker Bulgari last year at 28.2 times its EBITDA and is a huge premium against current average valuations for European luxury brands which stand at 10-11 times 2012 forecast EBITDA.

Analysts said the Qatari royal family, which also owns London's Harrods department store, appeared to be building a home grown luxury brand with this latest purchase.

"It's the kind of thing that fits in well with Qatar: iconic, quality brands, with a long-term value and an appealing customer base," said Rachel Zeimba, a senior analyst at Roubini Global Economics.

Founded in 1960 by designer Valentino Garavani, the Italian brand acquired global fame thanks to its trademark bright-red chiffon dresses, loved by princesses and Hollywood stars alike.   Continued...