By and  on December 1, 2006

MILAN — Fifth time lucky?

Prada chief Patrizio Bertelli has pulled the plug on an initial public offering of the group four times, but now says he is looking at 2008 for a potential IPO of the luxury goods group.

The sale of 5 percent of Prada to Banca Intesa is due to become final today in a deal that puts an overall value on the group of almost $4 billion. On Thursday, Bertelli told an Italian financial daily that he is reevaluating a stock market listing. A Prada spokesman told WWD, "The IPO will not happen in 2007, but next year we will set things in motion for a possible listing in 2008."

In the interview with Il Sole, Bertelli said the listing would guarantee "the best opportunities to grow and develop the Prada Group in the coming years."

This is the first time in two years that Bertelli has raised the subject of a listing. Last month, the executive was vague about the possibility of an IPO and declined to provide a possible date. "We'll see when the best moment arrives," he reluctantly responded to inquiries at a conference here.

But given Bertelli's on-again, off-again track record, analysts are skeptical about his renewed interest in an IPO. A luxury goods analyst here who spoke on condition of anonymity said it was no coincidence Bertelli spoke about an IPO just as the agreement with Banca Intesa was taking shape.

"Intesa is putting the money in; the only way to get out of it is through a listing," said the analyst.

Banca Intesa is buying 5 percent of Prada for 100 million euros, or $132.6 million at current exchange, which would give Prada an enterprise value of 2.75 billion euros, or $3.64 billion. Intesa, with a pool of other banks, will lend Prada 200 million euros, or $265.2 million, as part of another funding package, the terms of which are not yet final, according to the Prada spokesman.

"It's not this 5 percent that weighs on Bertelli's decisions, but what came before this," said another analyst. "Nobody [outside Prada and the banks] knows the terms of the contracts signed by Bertelli with the banks."

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