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Giorgio Armani Tops Pambianco List

Each year, the consulting firm Pambianco Strategie di Impresa ranks the top 50 Italian fashion and luxury goods firms that have the requisites to go public.

MILAN — While Italy may be home to many of the world’s leading fashion and luxury goods brands, most are out of reach of stock market investors as they remain closely held by their founders or their families. An annual ranking by consulting firm Pambianco Strategie di Impresa, presented during a press conference at the Milan Stock Exchange on Monday, showed just what investors are missing out on.

In this year’s ranking of the top 50 Italian fashion and luxury goods firms that have the requisites to go public — the eighth-annual edition — the first spot goes to Giorgio Armani. The powerhouse Italian brand, with annual sales in 2012 of more than 2 billion euros, or $2.58 billion, climbed one notch from its second-place position in last year’s edition.

The other brands rounding out the top five are Ermenegildo Zegna Group (second place, up from third in 2012), Dolce & Gabbana (down from first place last year), Milan-based cosmetics maker Kiko (up from sixth place) and high-end men’s wear maker Stefano Ricci (up from 16th place last year).

The rankings have no relevance with respect to the actual performance of each company, Carlo Pambianco, founder and head of Pambianco, explained during the presentation. Some companies — like Ricci and other top 50 candidates including Diesel parent company Only the Brave (up two positions to sixth in this year’s ranking) — have been rumored to be interested in an eventual listing.

Dollar amounts have been converted at average exchange rates for the periods to which they refer.

For the third year in a row, Pambianco carried out a similar exercise covering “made in Italy” home and design firms. Topping this year’s ranking of the 15 most initial public offering-ready firms is Kartell, which held the number-one spot in 2012 also, followed by Flos and Gruppo B&B Italia in the top three. Other names in the top 15 include Artemide and Alessi.

The study ranks — in both categories — those companies that have the right characteristics for a stock market listing in a three- to five-year period, independently from any actual plans by the companies to go public.

Evaluation criteria include annual sales of more than 50 million euros, or $66.1 million at current exchange; a 10 percent increase in sales over the past three years and average earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization over the same period of over 8 percent of revenues; a company’s retail network; its debt load, and — new to this year’s rankings — its level of internationalization, measured as a percentage of exports on total sales. Age of the firm’s founder, a criterion in past editions, was eliminated this year.

Carlo Pambianco commented how export potential is a crucial success factor for firms in the industry. Not surprisingly, in fashion and luxury goods, firms like Ricci and Zegna generate over 90 percent of their revenues from exports, according to the research.

Luca Peyrano, head of Continental Europe Primary Markets of the Italian Bourse, said there were between four and five fashion companies that could list in the coming year, the biggest one with annual sales of some 300 million euros, or $396.4 million. A few would list on the AIM segment for smaller firms and a few on the main market, Peyrano said.

Neither Peyrano nor Pambianco would name any of the potential firms and they didn’t say whether they were part of the top 50 list.

Referring back to the ranking, Peyrano said that if all the ranked fashion and luxury goods companies were listed, they would have combined 2012 sales of more than 15 billion euros, or $19.8 billion, up 8 percent on 2011, and a combined market capitalization — using a 10 times EBITDA multiplier — of about 26.2 billion euros, or $34.6 billion.

The 13 fashion and luxury goods makers currently listed in Milan have a combined market capitalization of 29.7 billion euros, or $39.2 billion, Peyrano said, adding that eyewear giant Luxottica SpA alone represents 17.5 billion euros, or $23.1 billion.

At the end of the presentation, the head of Italian men’s wear brand Harmont & Blaine, Domenico Menniti, confirmed he is on track to sell a portion of the company to an outside investor, part of what should be a three-year process towards a stock market listing, as reported.

Asked for more details, Menniti said the company has received about 15 nonbinding expressions of interest for what a market source said should be the sale of a roughly 20 to 30 percent stake. From Dec. 11 to 20, the company is looking to collect binding offers and to seal a deal by the first quarter of 2014. New funds would be used to help push an internationalization drive which should lead to a tripling of annual sales, to some 180 million euros, or $237.9 million, over three years.