Andrea Buccellati, actress Zhang Ziyi and Xu Jingang.

MILAN — As rumors continue to swirl around Buccellati and its ownership, the Italian jewelry company expects to close 2018 with an uptick in sales and is planning the celebrations to mark its 100th anniversary next year. “We are mapping out an event that will start from Milan and travel around the world,” chief executive officer Gianluca Brozzetti said in an exclusive interview.

The company is growing at a double-digit clip in 2018, Brozzetti revealed, boosted by expansion in Asia with the opening of five stores this year. Brozzetti also pointed to a strong communication campaign in the region, fronted by actress Zhang Ziyi, who is also a Buccellati brand ambassador. Brozzetti underscored the prominence and influence of the actress, who gained international recognition for her role in Ang Lee’s 2000 film “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” which was nominated for 10 Academy Awards.

The development in Asia and China in particular was enabled by Buccellati’s owner, Gansu Gangtai Group, which acquired 85 percent of the firm last year. The Buccellati family and private equity company Clessidra SGR retained a 15 percent stake. Gansu Gangtai Group paid 195 million euros for its holding in Buccellati, giving the jeweler an equity value of 230 million euros.

Buccellati’s first store in China opened in November 2017, located inside Shanghai’s Plaza 66 luxury mall, and the 1,615-square-foot unit was celebrated with a special event in the presence of Andrea Buccellati, honorary president and creative director of the house, who cut the ribbon for the unit along with Gansu Gangtai Group’s president Xu Jingang and Ziyi.

Market sources say Gansu Gangtai Group is seeking a coinvestor to help further develop the brand, but Brozzetti declined to comment on the speculation.

Last month WWD reported that, according to Milan-based sources, the Chinese government’s clampdown on foreign investments was affecting the development of some fashion brands, including Buccellati and that founding family members were frustrated over a lack of investment in the house by its current owner.

“It’s a perfect storm,” said one source. “It’s a complicated situation; entrepreneurs are facing hurdles because there are specific quotas of Chinese capital that are allowed to be exported and there are also restrictions affecting the Chinese banking system.” This is especially impacting companies and funds that do not have international branches and that are not solid enough to weather the situation, contended the source.

On the other hand, a source said the publicly listed parent of Gansu Gangtai Group, Gangtai Holding, is growing and may be able to find additional financial resources from its diversified portfolio to channel into the group and thus into Buccellati.

One source confirmed Gansu Gangtai Group is seeking a coinvestor, but “it may seek a valuation and then decide to keep the brand, or stay on as a minority investor.”

As reported, market speculation indicated Compagnie Financière Richemont as one party that could be eyeing Buccellati, but the Swiss luxury group had no comment.

Asia is not the only region of interest for Buccellati, which will open a boutique in the Hotel Costes on Rue Saint Honoré in Paris between the end of January and early February. “The location is beautiful, with Graff on the left side and Buccellati on the right,” touted Brozzetti.

Brozzetti joined Buccellati in September 2014. He was previously ceo of the Roberto Cavalli Group, and before that held senior roles at Asprey, Bulgari, Gucci Group and Louis Vuitton.

One of Buccellati’s core jewels is the Eternelle ring, where gold is handcrafted like lace, decorated with engravings and precious stones.

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