MILAN -- Aeffe has a busy summer ahead.Not only is the Italian manufacturer mounting a big expansion in the Far East for its Moschino unit, but sources here speculate the company could be preparing for an initial public offering, right in step with IPO's by Prada and Burberry.Aeffe, the parent of Alberta Ferretti and Moschino is increasingly streamlining its paperwork in view of a listing this fall."The company does not need cash urgently, but wants to be ready for when the market will be more favorable," said one analyst, who asked to remain anonymous. "For this reason, they are speeding up procedures for a public listing."In fall 2000, Massimo Ferretti, who owns Aeffe with his sister, Alberta Ferretti, said he was planning to list the company in the following two to three years. At the time, Ferretti noted he had sold a 20 percent stake in the firm to the Italian merchant bank Nuova Holding Subalpina SpA, which belongs to the Italian bank Gruppo Sanpaolo IMI and which was hammering out a plan to list Aeffe."I don't believe the IPO will be before the summer," said Carlo Pambianco, owner of a luxury goods consultancy firm here. "Very likely, Aeffe will want to be ready for a listing in the second half of the year, when analysts expect the economy to be picking up."Pambianco added that Aeffe was a "solid and profitable" company, but that it also had important projects for the future which needed an injection of funds.In a phone interview, Massimo Ferretti said that the listing was "not a top priority" and that he did not "expect an IPO anytime soon.""Market conditions are not favorable and I don't foresee an improvement by the fall," said Ferretti. He confirmed, however, that the company had been working on "transparency" for the past year in view of a listing. Aeffe registered sales of $226.9 million in 2001, a 48 percent increase from 2000. "While I have [high] expectations for 2003, sales this year will be in line with 2001," said Ferretti.One of Aeffe's immediate projects is a significant investment in the Far East for Moschino SpA. The company has formed a joint venture with Bluebell Far East Ltd. to distribute and sell Moschino lines to markets in the Far East. The joint venture, based in Hong Kong, is named Moschino Far East, with Moschino maintaining a 50.1 percent stake. The company will coordinate local branches throughout Eastern markets, including Japan, where the lines will no longer be distributed by Sanki Shoji. Bluebell has been distributing Moschino in the Far East since 1989.The spring-summer 2003 collection will be the first distributed by Moschino Far East. The company expects sales of more than $32.8 million in the first year. Dollar figures are converted from the euro at current exchange rates."The Far East is a strong market for us," said Marco Gobbetti, Moschino's chief executive. "Our business has grown more than 20 percent each season in Japan over the past two years."Gobbetti said the joint venture is in line with the company's strategy -- and indeed the increasingly common strategy of many Italian firms -- to take over distribution. "Moschino already controls distribution in Europe, the U.S. and the Middle East," he said.Gobbetti said the company will invest in retailing in the next four years, doubling the current 34 sales points, which include 14 boutiques and 20 in-store shops.The brand plans a pointed effort in Japan, where it opened its first branch in 1994. It expects to bring the current 9 sales points up to 22 and shut down local licenses. Not considering revenues from the licenses in Japan, Gobbetti said Japan and the Far East accounted for 10 percent of sales last year. "By 2003, we expect these markets to account for 20 percent of sales," said Gobbetti.In the rest of the Far East, Moschino plans to double its current 25 sales points: in China, the company will add 11 stores to the two Shanghai and Beijing stores, and will open 10 new sales points in Korea.Gobbetti said the company expects the joint venture to register sales of $65.6 million in 2006. In 2001, Moschino total wholesale revenues including licenses, were $267.2 million."

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