MILAN — Investors who dream about owning even a small piece of companies like Giorgio Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Ermenegildo Zegna, Kartell and Flos — among others — may one day have their dreams come true. But they shouldn’t hold their breath.
On Tuesday, Italian fashion consultancy Pambianco Strategie di Imprese presented its 10th annual ranking of the 65 Made in Italy fashion, luxury goods and design companies that have what it takes to list on the stock market. Most of these potentially “listable” companies won’t be knocking at Borsa Italiana’s door anytime soon, though.
This year’s ranking contained few surprises. Of the 50 firms in the fashion and luxury goods sector, Armani held the number-one spot for the third year in a row, followed by Zegna. Dolce & Gabbana was knocked from third place, where it held steady since 2013, by Florence-based men’s wear-maker Stefano Ricci. But this, explained David Pambianco, chief executive officer of Pambianco, was due to the simplification of the fashion house’s product offering with the closing of the D&G line, which led to a temporary slowdown in growth.
There are eight new entries and an equal number of “leavers” — a sort of revolving door that isn’t an indication of poor performance on the part of the companies bumped out of the list, but a sign that the new entries performed better, Carlo Pambianco, founder and chairman of Pambianco, explained.
Topping off the new entries was Brandy Melville, a brand only a few attendees at the presentation had ever heard of, which debuted in ninth place, taking the place of Renzo Rosso’s Only The Brave (Diesel), which slid to 15th. Another brand few had heard of is Diamant, a producer of men’s and women’s cycling shoes, which debuted in 31st position, pushing last year’s number 31 — Luisa Spagnoli — to 33rd place.
“The new entries are extremely segmented and very export-focused,” commented Pambianco, adding that these are characteristics that should be emulated by others. “Generic producers don’t work anymore.”
In the ranking of the 15 design companies there were few changes from last year, with Flos, Kartell and B&B Italia maintaining their positions at the head of the pack.
As in previous years, Pambianco assigns a weighted score to factors including growth in sales and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization over the previous three years; net debt; export; retail presence (directly-operated stores), and brand awareness. Of a maximum possible score of 100, number one-ranked Armani came in at 81.4.
“This year, too, the Pambianco research is very interesting,” said Raffaele Jerusalmi, ceo of Borsa Italiana, which hosted the presentation. “Always more and more fashion, luxury and design companies look to the stock market as a way to develop their business and be more competitive internationally.”
Combined sales of all the 65 selected firms in 2014 (the last full year for which data were available) reached 20.2 billion euros, or $26.9 billion, up from 18.6 billion euros, or $24.7 billion, in 2013. Dollar amounts have been converted at average exchange for the periods to which they refer.
Although average EBITDA margins dropped slightly (from 15.7 percent to 14.3 percent) in the fashion category, they remained basically steady, at 13.6 percent, in the design category.
According to calculations by Borsa Italiana, the 65 companies in the rankings would have a combined market capitalization of more than 40 billion euros, or $44 billion at current exchange. Adding this to the current 53 billion euros, or $58.3 billion, market value of the 22 fashion and design companies already listed on the exchange — firms including Salvatore Ferragamo, Tod’s and Brunello Cucinelli, among others – the aggregate market cap would be some 90 billion euros, or $99 billion, around 15 percent the total value of listed companies on the Milan exchange.
Overall these firms could raise up to 11 billion euros, or $12.1 billion — a hefty sum to invest in things like retail expansion, product development and strengthening management.
Pambianco also creates a separate ranking that includes already-listed Italian fashion and design companies. Perhaps surprisingly, using the Pambianco methodology, Giorgio Armani would still come in first place, followed by already-listed Ferragamo and Luxottica. Zegna would be pushed back to fourth place with Stefano Ricci coming in fifth. Then Tod’s and Moncler would bump ahead of Dolce & Gabbana, in eighth place, with Gianni Versace and cosmetics retailer Kiko rounding out the top 10.
Some already-listed brands — including Caruso (on the small-company AIM market), Basicnet, Stefanel and Fedon — wouldn’t make the cut this year.
There is good reason to want to buy into this market segment, Roberto Bonacina, head of M&A advisory at Ernst & Young in Milan, said during the presentation: The fashion and luxury segment in 2015 has so far gained 7.9 percent since the beginning of the year, returning almost twice the 4.7 percent attained by runner-up Stoxx Europe 600. Also, despite a slowdown in growth in markets such as China, the sector remains on a positive trend, he said.
Barbara Lunghi, head of Borsa Italiana’s small- and medium-sized company unit, pointed out that, since 2009, the Italian personal-goods sector rose 262 percent and is up 28.5 percent since January this year. This compares with a more modest 179 percent growth in the FTSE All World index, which is up “only” 2.7 percent so far this year.
Aside from their headline value, the rankings are a useful instrument for many companies that probably wouldn’t have previously considered a stock market listing. And inclusion is no guarantee that a firm will, in fact, seek to list — or succeed in listing should it decide to. According to Pambianco, however, “over the next three to five years three or four companies will seek an [initial public offering].”