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Versace Sees Full-Year Growth — and Perhaps an IPO

On Thursday, the company's ceo Gian Giacomo Ferraris set a target for when Versace might go public or sell a stake.

MILAN — With profits and sales climbing at Gianni Versace SpA, the question arises again: When will it go public?

The answer: not just yet.

As the fashion house on Thursday reported growth in net profits and sales in 2012, Gian Giacomo Ferraris, its chief executive officer, repeated there are no immediate plans to take Versace public or sell a stake. But he set a target for when that might happen: when the company hits sales of 500 million to 600 million euros, or $641.2 million and $770 million at current exchange.

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Just how much the company can or should grow is top of mind for Ferraris and the Versace family, who tapped Goldman Sachs and Banca IMI as advisers last year to look at ways to add help fuel expansion. While no answer is definite yet, noted Ferraris, “the Versaces have every intention of staying on as owners of the firm. They are aware that the more the company grows the more it is their duty to explore ways to be competitive against larger fashion conglomerates.”

Siblings Santo and Donatella Versace hold 30 and 20 percent stakes, respectively, and Donatella’s daughter, Allegra Versace Beck, owns 50 percent of the firm. As he charts the company’s growth strategy, Ferraris said he also will continue to “educate the company to transparency,” and has begun to book numbers on a monthly basis in 2013.

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Investments in retail and increases in the U.S. and Asia helped lift profits by 7 percent in the year ended Dec. 31 to 8.5 million euros, or $10.8 million, from 7.9 million euros, or $10.9 million, in 2011. (Tax adjustments obliged the company to restate the latter figure in April 2012 from 8.5 million euros.)

Group revenues climbed 20 percent to 408.7 million euros, or $523.1 million.

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

“There was a sleeping giant under the ashes,” said Ferraris, whose restructuring helped return the company to the black in 2011.

In an interview at the company’s headquarters here, Ferraris underscored his pride in the growth of the signature line in terms of both ready-to-wear and accessories, while noting investments of 25 million euros, or $32 million, last year to expand the company. In comparison, Versace invested 15 million euros, or $20.8 million, in 2011 and 5 million euros, or $6.6 million, in 2010.

“Last year we set in motion important projects, such as e-commerce, new beachwear and innerwear lines, the Young Versace collection and Atelier Versace, and invested in growing Hong Kong, China, Malaysia, the U.S., Europe and Brazil. Now we will reap the rewards,” said Ferraris, who expects double-digit growth in the next three years. “The year 2013 has started in an encouraging way, with retail revenues in the first quarter up more than 20 percent,” he added.

The company has grown more than 50 percent over the last three years.

In 2012, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, adjusted for currency movements, rose 15 percent to 44.5 million euros, or $57 million.

Retail sales for the year were up 39 percent to 224.5 million euros, or $287.3 million, while wholesale revenues grew about 5 percent to 149.4 million euros, or $191.2 million. Royalties were in line with the previous year at 34.9 million euros, or $44.6 million.

Sales were evenly split between the men’s and women’s divisions.

Ferraris described Versace’s product offer as “more complete now,” and the new store concept introduced in New York in October is the “new way to communicate it.” A new boutique modeled after this blueprint, conceived by Donatella Versace and English architect Jamie Fobert, will open in Paris “in a few days,” said Ferraris, as well as a 4,320-square-foot unit in Rome near the Spanish Steps in September, and one door in Venice this year.

Ferraris touted a “fantastic response” to the brand in the U.S., which was also boosted by the men’s formal wear and accessories categories. In the U.S., a market that last year showed 46 percent growth and accounted for 15 percent of revenues, the company plans to open a store in Orlando, Fla., and “probably” Chicago in 2013. There are currently 11 stores in the area.

While building retail clout in established markets, Versace is also expanding in new regions.

The company will open three new stores between this month and May in São Paulo, Curitiba and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, which it entered with its own branch at the end of last year.

Versace is also looking for a location to open a boutique in Japan this year.

Asia also registered strong growth in 2012, climbing 38 percent and, excluding Japan, accounted for 40 percent of sales.

In particular, sales in Mainland China gained 24 percent and accounted for 20 percent of total revenues. Versace has its own subsidiary in Beijing and plans to open a duplex in Shanghai this year, one of eight to 10 openings in China between first- and second-tier cities, said Ferraris.

Despite a lackluster economy in Italy and Europe, the continent was up 7 percent, fueled by a 19 percent increase in retail sales, and accounting for 43 percent of revenues.

“In 2012, we committed to a business development with increased investments in new product lines and penetration of new markets. As our business benefits from these investments, it will free up more capital for expansion,” said Ferraris. “In the absence of unforeseen circumstances, we remain optimistic for the business and expect to achieve our strategic ambitions ahead of plans.”

The new course of Versus as a seasonless line with a strong digital element that will be designed by Donatella Versace in collaboration with a number of young designers, stylists and creative talents will be introduced in New York on May 15 in a yet-to-be-disclosed venue with an event Ferraris described as “very particular.” After parting ways with Christopher Kane last year, J.W. Anderson is the first designer to work on Versus with Versace. A new online Versus shop-in-shop and site at Versusversace.com will also be unveiled next month.

“This is the young heart of Versace,” said Ferraris, who revealed a cobranding project with an undisclosed firm, understood to work outside of fashion, will also be presented.

Versace is counting on its new Web site and online store, launched in Europe at the end of November and in the U.S. at the end of December, for a further boost. The plan is to also enter Australia and China with e-commerce at the end of 2013. “We are already in line with our goal to reach 1 percent of our sales at the end of the year through our e-store,” said Ferraris.