By  on April 13, 2007

MILAN — Jewelry firm Damiani is planning to go public, joining a crowded lineup for prospective fashion IPOs that includes Aeffe, Ferragamo and Prada.

Casa Damiani SpA's board has given chairman and chief executive officer Guido Damiani a mandate to list the company on the Milan Stock Exchange, the firm said late Wednesday. Damiani declined to elaborate on the timing or size of the share offer.

UniCredit Markets & Investment Banking and Merrill Lynch are the offering's joint coordinators and bookrunners, the company said. Damiani plans to list on the Milan stock market's Star segment, which targets smaller companies with a market capitalization of less than 1 billion euros, or $1.34 billion at current exchange. Companies listing on Star must float at least 35 percent of their shares, according to the Borsa Italiana. Aeffe is also applying to list on Star.

Founded in 1924, the family-owned Damiani has grown organically and through acquisitions. Over the years, the company has snagged celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt and Gwyneth Paltrow for its ads. Damiani also produces Salvini, a more accessibly priced line, and Bliss, a youth-oriented collection featuring gold and steel items.

The company has been an active shopper on the scene. Damiani bought niche jeweler Alfieri & St. John in 1998, snapped up 16 percent of competitor Pomellato four years later, and most recently purchased high-end jeweler Calderoni 1840.

Damiani said its 2006 net profit rose 18.2 percent to 16.2 million euros, or $20.4 million at average exchange rates for the period. Sales last year were 183 million euros, or $230.6 million. The company did not provide a comparative revenue figure for 2005.

Damiani is the latest company to join the IPO fray. Two weeks ago, Aeffe said it plans to go public. Ferragamo and Prada are both planning listings. Versace has said it might pursue an IPO as well.

Alessandra Coppola, a luxury goods analyst at Standard & Poor's, said she thinks an optimistic business climate is encouraging more companies to pursue IPOs. Early last year, Italian firms were bracing for a slowdown but first-half earnings pleasantly surprised the industry, she said."The uncertainty we were seeing at the beginning of last year is no longer there," she said.

Undoubtedly, improving market conditions are also reassuring potential IPO candidates. Milan's S&PMib index has risen 13 percent over the past year.

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