MILAN — Global M&A activity in the fashion and luxury industry picked up in 2016, after four consecutive years of decline, growing 30 percent.In its latest annual Pambianco Strategia di Impresa study, the Milan-based consultancy said M&A deals last year totaled 96, compared with 74 in 2015. There M&A agreements were 114 in 2012, dropping to 106 in 2013 and 89 in 2014.The market is dominated by large groups and private equity funds, which, together, represent 40 percent of operations, said Pambianco. Last year saw the arrival of distribution chains in the arena, such as Thom Europe buying Italian jewelry chain Stroili and Orovivo, or JD Sports acquiring Go Outdoors and Aspecto. The deals in distribution and retail totaled 12.Buyers in the fashion and luxury sector are less and less large manufacturing groups and are increasingly more financial operators, such as equity funds, and holding companies, such as LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Kering. Holding companies have been integrating their groups also through the acquisition of manufacturers, but have been slowing his activity, shifting to investments in prestigious luxury brands. Pambianco highlighted the Qatar-based Mayhoola Group, which bought Balmain, and G-III, which took a 19 percent stake in the Karl Lagerfeld brand and also acquired DKNY.In leather goods, the study pointed to Samsonite’s acquisition of the travel specialist Tumi as well as Piquadro buying Italy’s storied handbags and briefcases firm the Bridge. Related to travel, LVMH acquired 85 percent of the German luggage brand Rimowa.With this strategy, said the study, “the goal is to guarantee an expansion in the long-term in order to be more competitive and acquire an increasingly large market share.”In 2016, holding companies were the most active acquirers, as they were involved in 21 deals, followed by funds with 18. Transactions made by holding companies in Italy included the Chinese Gangtai Group buying the Buccellati jewelry firm from Clessidra; Chinese luxury brand management firm RedStone Haute Couture, which also owns high-end Italian brand Giada, designed by Gabriele Colangelo, bought storied fashion and couture brand Curiel; Brandamour acquired D’Avenza; jewelry firm Gruppo Damiani or D Holding took a majority stake in glass firm Venini, and Belle International acquired Equibox Holding, which controls the Replay, Replay & Sons, and We Are Replay labels.M&A deals made by funds decreased 28 percent compared with 2015. Among these, Alessandro Benetton’s 21 Investimenti bought footwear brand Philippe Model, while Sator increased its stake in Boccaccini,which controls L’Autre Chose, to 85 percent. Armònia SGR bought a majority stake in the Aspesi fashion group, founded by Alberto Aspesi and known for its signature classic lightweight down jackets. L Catterton in December acquired Pinarello, the bicycle producer that’s a favorite of Tour de France winners which also makes accessories and apparel.There were five deals in design, such as the Poltrona Frau Group and Haworth buying the American Janus et Cie, and four transactions in active wear and three in apparel, among others. Four deals with e-tailers reflected the effort to create bigger groups and increase market share. For example, Vente-Privée.com bought the Spanish company Privalia and Denmark’s Designers & Friends; Wal-Mart Stores Inc. bought Jet.com; HBC bought Gilt Group, and the French Showroomprivé bought the Italian Saldi Privati.Geographically, 55 percent of the deals were made outside Italy, while the number of transactions between Italian subjects was 24, or 25 percent of the total.The interest of foreign investors in Italian firms contracted to seven deals, or 7 percent of the total, while the investment of Italian companies outside their national borders increased, with 12 deals, or 13 percent of the total.In terms of brands, WP Lavori in Corso bought 80 percent of Woolrich; 51 percent of the men’s brand Billionaire Couture passed on to Philipp Plein International; Pepe Jeans London bought Façonnable; Delta Galil bought 7 For All Mankind; Authentic Brands Group bought teen retailer Aéropostale and Montefiore Investment took a 51 percent stake in French fashion label Isabel Marant.
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