​MILAN — Valextra is the latest Italian company mulling an initial public offering.

This story first appeared in the February 25, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Chairman and chief executive officer Emanuele Carminati Molina is discussing the future of the Italian accessories firm with a number of private equity funds, including London-based Neo Capital, to expand the niche brand and eventually go public.

“It’s a magic moment,” said Carminati Molina during a presentation of the brand’s luxury bags in Milan on Saturday.

“We are a small brand, but we have become a point of reference in luxury,” he said, admitting that a number of large groups such as PPR, Samsung and “the biggest Chinese fund” have been eyeing the Italian company, which last year had revenues of 13.5 million euros, or $17.3 million.

The label dates back to 1937, when Giovanni Fontana opened the first Valextra boutique in Milan’s Piazza San Babila. First Lady Michelle Obama and high-profile celebrities including Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Aniston, Katie Holmes and Victoria and David Beckham are among those seen carrying Valextra bags, known for their hand-crafted, Made in Italy designs, precious hides and unique details.

Carminati Molina said that at the end of 2011, when he “started to believe the company was healthy and sound,” he began to consider alternative ways to expand the firm he bought in 2000. The entrepreneur realized development plans needed to be supported by investments in order to expand globally and in more directions. “At first, I was more inclined toward a partner with know-how and experience in this sector, but then I realized that becoming part of a group, for example, I may not be privy to strategies and plans,” said the entrepreneur, who has three sons. “I want to create a future for them, I wouldn’t want to see all this vanish by becoming part of a multinational group that would swallow us up,” he explained.

While at first concerned that a financial partner would not help develop Valextra for the long-term, Carminati Molina changed his mind. “I now see they are often organized entities, with a motivated management, and we are accelerating our evaluations of possible funds,” he noted.

Conceding that Neo Capital has approached Valextra, Carminati Molina said no deal has been defined. The prerequisite is for the potential partner to be “respectful of the brand, which is inextricably linked to our philosophy and concept, and as long as it understands it should remain Italian and Milanese,” he explained.

Carminati Molina said he’s invested 40 million euros, or $52.9 million at current exchange, in Valextra so far. Through an injection of fresh cash, he hopes to further expand the company and publicly list it. “An IPO is the solution that we see more in line with our beliefs,” he remarked.

Valextra counts a flagship in Milan, six stores in Japan and five in Korea. The brand is exclusively distributed by Barneys New York in the U.S., Le Bon Marché in Paris and Selfridges in London, in addition to 11 other retailers in Europe.

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