MILAN — The world’s publicly listed retailers have a new billion-dollar baby: Italy’s OVS SpA.
The fashion retailer, Italy’s largest, on Monday debuted on the Italian Stock Exchange, the country’s first fashion initial public offering since Moncler’s in December 2013. OVS shares closed flat at the end of trading at 4.10 euros, or $4.58 at current exchange, after dipping 1.5 percent in midmorning. But the IPO is perhaps a sign of increasing confidence that things in Italy are on the upswing, with the first signs of growth in industrial production in years.
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The IPO was expected to take place by the end of 2014, but in November, citing market volatility, the group postponed the listing to the first half of 2015.
The listing will raise about 414 million euros, or $463.3 million, gross of fees and costs related to the transaction. OVS is floating 45.4 percent of its shares, or 101 million shares. This does not include the greenshoe option.
The IPO will give the retailer a market capitalization of about 931 million euros, or $1.04 billion.
“We are very pleased to finally see an IPO of a relevant size,” said Raffaele Jerusalmi, chief executive officer of the Italian Bourse, at the event organized by the stock exchange Monday morning.
“I’ve been asked if I am happy about the listing. Yes, I am, because I don’t think it’s banal [to go public] in these times and in this country, where we must invest and create profit,” said Stefano Beraldo, ceo of the Italian retailer, who was instrumental in the company’s turnaround and rejuvenation.
“I suffered in seeing the company’s shortages and weaknesses,” said Beraldo of OVS, which almost went bankrupt before he joined 10 years ago and went through two leveraged buyouts. “It didn’t manage to grow, it was a model based on price alone. What would happen today with the Internet? How would it have grown?”
The executive said the store chain “resisted because it was transformed into a brand from a banner.”
Beraldo reiterated that the goal of the listing was to grow the company in Italy, “a very fragmented market,” through the opening of new stores, and that expansion outside the country will follow as “a second priority.” During the road show last month, Beraldo said more than 200 new store locations have already been identified, adding that OVS has the “potential to more than double its current market share.
“OVS is the first retailer in Italy, with a market share of 5.17 percent, twice as much as Inditex and three times as much as H&M, but Italy is a fragmented market, and those competitors have a 7 to 8 percent penetration in the markets in their own countries, so we have room to grow,” said Beraldo at the time.
OVS has been positioning itself as a trendier fast-fashion destination, focusing on a more stylish and higher-quality lineup. Beraldo trumpeted the “strong improvements in the product. You can’t live on finance alone.”
The executive tapped Elio Fiorucci nine years ago for OVS and worked with the designer for three years. OVS also inked collaborations with Costume National, Aspesi and Matthew Williamson. The Sartorialist’s Scott Schuman was tapped to produce a number of ad campaigns. Last year, OVS bolstered its design team with two new hires, Caterina Salvador and Marco Mazzorana, overseeing women’s and men’s wear, respectively. Both come from luxury backgrounds and are working to create collections that are fashion-forward and well-made, but remain within an affordable price range. Last year, OVS added a fitness division to be expanded in 2015 and boosted its offer for teens.
Nikos Stathopoulos, managing partner of parent company BC Partners, said OVS “has learned to dance in the rain and is now coming out with sunshine,” eliciting a round of giggles as he pointed to the gloomy, rainy morning outside on Monday. “It’s been a bumpy journey, but now it’s just the beginning of a new exciting chapter. Good things happen to good companies,” Stathopoulos said. Beraldo will remain vice president of Gruppo Coin SpA, which controls OVS. Gruppo Coin, which was formerly listed on the Italian Stock Exchange, is owned by private equity firm BC Partners.
While upbeat and relaxed, Beraldo urged legislators to streamline the regulations that lead to an IPO, which are seen as too convoluted and extensive. “There are too many rules, the process to list is hard, we must speed things up,” he said. “There is a book of warnings that is so thick that by the time you finish reading it you’ve forgotten the beginning — a bit of advice: just do highlights.”
The global offer ended on Feb. 24 and was almost twice oversubscribed, with a total request of more than 226.8 million shares from 5,233 investors. More than 111.9 million shares were assigned to the 5,233 investors.
Gruppo Coin has granted the joint global coordinators a greenshoe option to purchase up to 11 million additional ordinary shares, or about 11 percent of the ordinary shares in the offering, which can be exercised within 30 days from the first day of trading. If fully exercised, shares floated will represent 49.3 percent of the group’s share capital. The OVS group also owns the Upim mass-market chain, which has 255 stores.
The share price for the OVS road show had been set at between a nonbinding minimum of 4 euros, or $4.47, and a binding maximum price of 5.40 euros, or $6.04. This is equal to an indicative price range of the company’s economic capital that is expected to be between a nonbinding minimum of 560 million euros, or $626.7 million, and a binding maximum of 756 million euros, or $846 million. The road show went through London, Frankfurt, Boston and New York.
OVS will partly or entirely use the proceeds from the IPO to reimburse the debt derived from a previous financing contract for a total of around 335 million euros, or $375 million.
In the fiscal year ended Jan. 31, 2014, OVS’ sales totaled 1.13 billion euros, or $1.26 billion, and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization were 132 million euros, or $147.7 million. In the first nine months ended Oct. 31, OVS posted a loss of 20.3 million euros, or $22.7 million, but Beraldo said he expected to turn a profit in the full fiscal year, through lower financial charges and a lower interest rate. In the first nine months, sales rose 7.4 percent, compared with the same period the previous year, reaching 877 million euros, or $981.4 million. Like-for-like sales rose 5.2 percent.
EBITDA rose 29.2 percent to 102 million euros, or $114.1 million, in the nine-month period.