By  on July 21, 2011

MILAN — M&A activity in Italy is not slowing down as European private equity fund Bridgepoint said Wednesday it has taken control of perfumery chain La Gardenia from funds L Capital, the private equity arm of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, and Ergon Capital. The parties did not disclose financial terms of the transaction.

La Gardenia, which has 161 stores and 822 employees, is positioned in the high-end segment of the market. The retailer posted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of 18 million euros, or $23.7 million at average exchange, and sales of 113 million euros, or $149 million, in 2010.

Bridgepoint said La Gardenia doubled its market share in the 2006 to 2011 period, on a like-for-like basis and through the opening of new stores. Italy’s perfumery business ranks third in Europe in terms of sales and is estimated at about 9 billion euros, or $12.7 billion at current exchange, annually.

La Gardenia chief executive officer Silvano Storer said “the company still has large growth margins and the partnership with Bridgepoint will allow the company to further grow and strengthen its market positioning.”

Commenting on the acquisition, Bridgepoint partner Lucio Ranaudo said, “La Gardenia is a sizeable nationwide operator in Italy in a large and highly fragmented market that is ripe for consolidation.” Ranaudo praised La Gardenia’s“reputation for excellent customer service,” and said the chain, which was “well positioned to take market share from independents,” is already a leading force in the shopping mall segment.

Bridgepoint is not new to the sector as one of its funds already controls Italy’s leading Limoni perfumery chain. It also developed the Nocibé perfumery chain in France from 2002 to 2005.

The fund said it had identified La Gardenia as an interesting target over two years ago. “Bridgepoint also believes that there is further potential at La Gardenia for best practice operational improvement such as the introduction of private label,” the fund said.

Bridgepoint first established operations in France in 1991 and has raised 11 billion euros, or $15.5 billion, of capital to date. In addition to La Gardenia, its investments in 2011 include the acquisition of French residential property management services business Foncia, and German specialty chemicals company CABB, among others.

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