NEW YORK -- Benetton Group SPA raised $157 million before underwriting expenses from the sale of 5 million American depository shares at $31.41 a share. Each American depository share consists of two common shares.

The Italian-based Benetton said a principal purpose of the offering was to increase public ownership of the company outside of Italy. Before the offering, its shareholder base was concentrated in Italy and Europe.

Proceeds will be used for corporate purposes and possibly for acquisitions. Benetton said it is currently reviewing potential acquisition candidates in such areas as eyeglass frames, swimwear and underwear, though no negotiations are currently in progress.

Management also noted that it sees substantial growth potential in areas such as India, the Far East and Latin America.

After completion of the offering, Benetton Family members, through Edizione Holding SpA, own 124,120,000 ordinary shares of the company, or 71.5 percent of the ordinary shares outstanding.

The Benetton American depository shares closed Wednesday at 31 1/2 on the New York Stock Exchange, up 1/4.

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