By and  on October 19, 2007

MILAN — It looks like Prada SpA is getting closer to carrying out its oft-postponed IPO.

Speculation here is rife the company is about to name its lead bankers for the IPO, which is expected to take place sometime next year. Italy's Intesa Sanpaolo SpA and UniCredit SpA, two of Prada's top lenders, are well placed to coordinate the offering, a source told WWD. Other financial institutions, including at least one foreign bank, also are expected to play a role. Intesa owns a 5 percent stake in Prada.

A Prada spokesman denied the fashion company has tapped its bankers — let alone committed itself to going public at all. "Nobody has been appointed," he said. "No decision regarding an IPO has been made."

Prada has flirted with the stock market for the last seven years, pulling the plug on an IPO four times. The company, which is worth an estimated 3 billion euros, or $4.25 billion at current exchange, to 4 billion euros, or $5.67, has refocused its management priorities on its core Prada and Miu Miu brands after selling off Helmut Lang, Jil Sander and Azzedine Alaïa. Prada also is bolstering its management ranks. Earlier this month, the company tapped former Gucci Group and Burberry executive Brian Blake as chief operating officer, a newly created role.

Former Gucci Group chairman and chief executive Domenico De Sole, who hired Blake 20 years ago at Gucci America, said Blake has plenty to contribute to the privately held group.

"Brian can make a huge difference to Prada. He is one of the finest luxury goods executives working today, best in class — truly superb. He has a great merchandising background and an amazingly disciplined approach," De Sole said.

On Thursday, Blake took part in his first Prada board meeting to approve the company's first-half numbers, released last month. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization for the six months ended July 31 rose 40 percent to 140 million euros, or $187.6 million at average exchange rates for the period. Sales in the half grew 18 percent to 811.5 million euros, or $1.09 billion.

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