February 22, 2012 / 8:11 PM / 5 years ago

Cashmere maker Cucinelli eyes IPO in early May

Italian clothing designer Brunello Cucinelli holds raw cashmere wool in the Umbrian village of Solomeo October 7, 2009.Alessandro Bianchi

MILAN (Reuters) - Cashmere maker Brunello Cucinelli aims to float on the Milan stock exchange by early May, in what would be the third share offering of an Italian luxury company in less than a year.

The maker of 2,000-euro colorful cashmere sweaters said in an interview on Wednesday he sought a reasonable price for his initial public offering aimed at ensuring sustainable growth.

"The price will be graceful, because the project is for a graceful growth," the businessman said at his showroom, where he showed a young collection of cashmere furs and sporty boots.

"I hope to float by between the end of April and the start of May," he said, adding he was confident Italy's efforts to stem the euro zone debt crisis would ease market concerns.

Cucinelli said last week it had filed with Italian regulators for an IPO. The deal, sponsored by investment bank Mediobanca, will include the issue of new shares and the sale of existing equity.

A keen philosopher whose website reads "beauty will save the world," Cucinelli said he wanted to go public to find "new long-term guardians" for his business, that he started in 1978 by selling colored cashmere sweaters.

"I want a healthy business, that gives healthy profits and healthy dividends. I am not doing an IPO to pay down debts, also because we don't have much debt."

The company had around 48 million euros of debt at the end of 2011, that it closed with revenue of around 242 million euros and pretax profits of some 30 million euros. In 2009 it had revenue of about 150 million euros.

Italian clothing designer Brunello Cucinelli poses as seamstresses make garments from cashmere, in the Umbrian village of Solomeo October 7, 2009.Alessandro Bianchi

Cucinelli would be the third Italian luxury maker to float in less than a year, after the successful flotations of Salvatore Ferragamo in Milan and Prada in Hong Kong in June.

European luxury makers have fared better than other industrial players during the euro-zone debt crisis, as they rely on new-money Asian buyers travelling the world.

Italian clothing designer Brunello Cucinelli poses in a theatre he built in the Umbrian village of Solomeo October 7, 2009.Alessandro Bianchi

But unlike peers who have boosted their retail presence to boost sales, Cucinelli said he was not looking to open many stores. "Top luxury does not have to be too distributed," he said.

The company sells mostly in multibrand stores worldwide and in only 50 monobrand shops, a small number compared with powerhouses such as Prada and Ferragamo.

Prices of its cashmere coats and sweaters are however above the average of other luxury goods.

"Affordable luxury is a nonsense," he said, adding French luxury group Hermes was his luxury model. "I have one brand name, one collection."

Son of a farmer, Cucinelli is anything but an orthodox capitalist. He has turned the medieval village of Solomeo, in the central Umbria region, into a factory where workers do not punch a time clock and lunch breaks are long.

During the preparatory steps for the IPO, he said he did not allow auditors to work at night. "It would have been bad to see them at work while people were drinking at the bar," he said.

Additional reporting by Sabina Suzzi, Elisa Anzolin; Editing by Maureen Bavdek

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